Dr. Dre

School News
December 12, 2017

Kate Drescher is affectionately known to some of her students as “Dr. Dre,” a reference to music mogul Andre Young who, among other accolades is considered “one of the best producers in the rap music industry.” And this truncated term of endearment is perhaps more apt than one might expect. Both individuals wear many hats and play critical roles both in front of and behind the scenes, and both have been instrumental in the success of those with whom they work.

Most know Dr. Kate Drescher as the school’s staff psychologist, but she also serves our community in two other very important capacities developing primary prevention programming for our students and co-leading a senior Homebase with Kate Blakslee. Following Dr. Drescher through the building can be both physically exhausting and emotionally dizzying as she fields questions from students, faculty and others—all while maintaining her signature, run-walk stride.

“My typical day is never typical,” chuckles Dr. Drescher. “Each is different, and I love it. It’s a puzzle and I enjoy the work of putting it all together.”

Staff Psychologist

Dr. Drescher’s door is always open, so to speak, except when it’s closed. In this case, she’s typically consulting about a sensitive topic. She is available to students, parents, and faculty to talk about mental health issues, which can include anxiety, depression, or stress management; changes in family status like divorce or the passing of a loved one; questions related to self-identity; or even time management and executive functioning. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The other day, I had a young student in my office who was struggling in getting to class.” says Dr. Drescher. “I peeled back the onion a bit and realized that it was not about the class or the teacher, but about an interaction with a peer earlier that day. The student’s feelings were hurt and they needed me to say ‘Gee that probably really hurt, and I am sorry someone hurt your feelings.’ I always start with validating a student’s feelings, which honors where they are and opens the door for a productive conversation. Then, we talked it through and discussed other ways to deal with these kinds of problems, and got the student back on track for the day. My goal—regardless of the nature of the conversation—is to help the kids build self awareness so they can discover the tools they need to solve their own problems. That is empowering.”

But some issues are more complex or acute. This can be crisis triage where everything else in her day stops and she remains singularly focused on one issue, or this role can take the form of helping coordinate long-term counseling or support in partnership with others. “I also work with Student Support Services to help with collateral effects of a clinical diagnosis of a learning difference.” says Drescher. “For example, some students with Attention Deficit Disorder might experience feelings of anxiety or depression if the student does not completely understand what is going on. I work with them to build self-awareness and understand that this is truly a learning difference—not a deficiency—and to help them process their emotions in a healthy way.”  In a similar fashion, Dr. Drescher also works with teachers who may have questions about how to best support an individual student or manage challenging group dynamics.

Primary Prevention Programming

“One of the reasons I work in a school,” says Dr. Drescher, “Is because it provides such an incredible venue in which to educate young people about challenges they will face in their lives so that these issues won’t become insurmountable problems. If we can do that, then the need for counseling or intervention decreases. This is the essence of primary prevention programming.” Her work in this area includes coordinating partnerships with outside organizations like the Johnson Depression Center at CU Denver, Eagle River Youth Coalition, Miles to Go, and UB.U Mindfulness.

Dr. Drescher also helps develop in-house programs like the parent coffee talks with upper school division director, Maggie Pavlik. “I’m particularly proud of the parent programs,” noted Drescher. “We've had such great conversations about how to work in partnership to support students and covered so many areas—how to help the kids manage all that’s on their plates; the need for seniors to individuate in preparation for their launch to college; the challenges presented by social gatherings that might include drugs and alcohol; and even helping the parents learn about all the different social media channels that their children use.”

A few other examples of programs Dr. Drescher has helped put in place include the screenings of the films Angst and Screenagers, and visits by the Vail Police Department for the Safety Fair and a workshop on self-defense. This spring she has invited social sexual health educator Cindy Pierce to campus to talk about how the Internet and pop culture have skewed our collective view of sex and relationships, and she will be collaborating with an ER physician and nurse to educate students about the physiological effects of substance abuse and what it looks like when they see it in the emergency room.

The last example was inspired by a request from students that came from a survey. “The students said clearly that they need reliable, research-driven information that can help them make educated decisions,” says Drescher. Other student-inspired programming includes the Senior Seminar that Dr. Drescher leads with VMS college counselor, Marisa Ferrara. This program was sparked by alumni feedback and has grown over the past couple of years from an afternoon program to a semester-long class to help prepare the 12th graders for one of the most significant changes in their lives.

Senior Homebase Advisor

Dr. Drescher begins each day in front of a group of seniors in the art room, which is their Homebase. She’s flanked by Kate Blakslee, with whom she works in partnership, and they are often referred to as the dynamic duo. And indeed they are. Today, they are talking about their Homebase’s role in the annual Adopt-a-Family program organized each December in partnership with the Salvation Army. They have been asked to shower gifts on a 3-year-old little girl. They are talking about both gifts that she might need—like clothing—as well as those that she wants, which happens to include a Barbie. As Homebase advisor, Dr. Drescher provides some subtle guidance. “Next week, things are really going to heat up in advance of exams," she says, “So, can we set a collective goal of getting this done by the end of this week?” That’s called executive functioning and leads to conversations among the students about when and where they can get what they need, and how they might carpool to make the effort more fun and environmentally responsible.

Up next is a mindfulness exercise. They’ve turned off the lights, but it’s still bright enough to see, and the east-facing picture window reveals a gorgeous view of the mountains on Vail Pass. In a quiet voice, Dr. Drescher reads a somewhat cryptic message about a farmer who raises prize-winning corn. It turns out that, each year, the farmer gives away seeds from his best corn to the other farmers with whom he competes. When asked why he would do something that might be a detriment to his success, he responds that corn must pollinate to thrive, and that the wind carries the pollen for miles, so his success depends on the success of his neighbors and of his community.

And with that, the students set off for their day.

Dr. Drescher came to VMS in 2005 and is a graduate of the school sometime between the construction of the first building on this site and the current building. She is also the proud parent of two current students.