Fairfield school psychologist speaking at African peace conference

FAIRFIELD TWP. — One of the first speaking engagements for a relative newcomer to Fairfield Schools is taking place this week half-way across the world.

Fairfield North Elementary School Psychologist Katie Kowalski is in her second year of working in the district and she already has a conference destination entry on her resume that will draw attention – Rwanda, Africa.

Kowalski is spending this week in that nation’s city of Kigali at the “Peace Education in an Era of Crisis” conference where she gave a presentation on some of the strategies she has used at her Fairfield Twp. school to bring students closer together emotionally.

It’s been an exciting and educational experience, Kowalski told the Journal-News from the Rwandan capital in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I specifically spoke about peer conflict and how we address it using restorative practices and systems level work such as positive behavior intervention support,” she said.

“I loved being able to share the great work that our team at North Elementary has been implementing for our students.”

And it is not all give and no take, she said.

“I had the opportunity at the conference to observe students from a Rwandan school demonstrate peer mediation. I would love for our students at North learn about this and possibly implement this is the future.”

The 2021 Masters graduate from Miami University, said her previous opportunities for speaking engagements at educational conferences were limited to online meetings due to the COVID pandemic’s onset in 2020.

“This is actually my first ever, in-person presentation,” said Kowalski.

Rwanda was racked by genocide that drew international attention almost three decades ago and while the internal and deadly clashes have greatly diminished, the emotional aftermath lingers for some.

“I have loved learning about how peace education has been implemented in the curriculum in Rwandan schools after the 1994 genocide. I am a lifelong learner and just so happy to have the experience to increase my knowledge on the subject,” she said.

Denise Hayes, her principal at Fairfield North, said conference officials picked the right person to provide some expert advice for school personnel in any nation looking to resolve emotional conflicts and challenges among students.

“Katie is the kind of psychologist that every school desires,” said Hayes.

“She works above and beyond to ensure that all of our students’ needs are met and she truly cares for our students and does everything she can for them.”

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