April 27, 2020
By Gianna Glover
After almost seven years as a guidance counselor, Mr. Rowland has taken on a new role as dean of students. After former dean of students Ms. Ringen left LHS to become assistant principal at Pequannock Valley School, Rowland took over the position.
Rowland grew up in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., and moved to Pequannock Township, N.J. when he started high school. During his high school years, he was part of the swim and baseball teams.
Rowland was a sophomore on 9/11 and said those heartbreaking attacks gave him the idea to join the military.
“I was an okay high school student, but I really had no idea what I wanted to do or what I wanted to major in, so I thought about going into the military,” Rowland said. “My mom was really against it.”
After having a family discussion about enlisting, Rowland said he agreed to earn his bachelor’s degree before joining the military and ultimately ended up studying at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa.
“To pay for college I was a stagehand with my dad in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera House fixing the lights. I also worked on Broadway with my uncle working cable and behind the scenes,” Rowland said.
He said upon entering college, he tried out for the baseball team, where he said he had an extremely successful tryout. However, Rowland said he ultimately decided to join the Delta Pi fraternity instead and was named pledge master in his junior year.
A year later, Rowland said he gave up his position so he could study abroad in Australia for the fall semester of his senior year. In 2007, he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in sociology.
“No matter how busy, how many appointments he has made for the day, Mr. Rowland will put all that aside if a student needs to speak to him for any reason.”
Still interested in joining the military, Rowland enlisted in the Navy as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Diver, which is a Special Ops Unit.
“I wanted to do something in the water because I was a swimmer my whole life,” Rowland said.
He said the training was complex. He started at boot camp, followed by dive preparation in Chicago, Ill.
After successfully completing six months of dive preparation, he traveled to Florida, where he attended dive school and finished his training in Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
“With dive school, we were running seven miles a day, getting drowned every day in the pool and all of those crazy exercises,” Rowland said. “With EOD school, it was all classroom stuff, learning about C-4, how to contain explosions, all that fun stuff.”
In 2009, only a few months after passing dive school, Rowland’s career in the Navy came to an end when he developed back problems that prevented him from diving.
“I went to the doctor and he told me I had a curve in my back. I told him I would take some Aspirin and be fine, but he said, ‘No, I don’t think you can dive anymore.’ It was a real bummer,” Rowland said.
Rowland said he was disappointed to hear the news about his back because it acted as a setback in his career.
“My biggest challenge in the military, once I found out about my back, was trying to figure out what to do next,” Rowland said.
After exploring several options, such as becoming a Navy officer, signing a liability waiver and continuing swimming or being placed in a job he did not like, Rowland said he discovered a new interest.
“At the time, there weren’t any counselors in the military. I was looking for a careers counselor to tell me what options I have at this point,” Rowland said. “For the first time in my life, I felt completely lost.”
Rowland said he thought about becoming a teacher and focusing on his love for history and then transitioning to become a guidance counselor.
While exploring his career options, Rowland said he was able to earn his master’s degree in School Counseling at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., which was financed by the Navy. He said the Navy also provided him with a living allowance, which he saved and eventually used as a down payment on a condominium.
Last year, Rowland earned a second master’s degree, this time in Educational Leadership from Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., which was financed by the Navy as well.
“While I had very mixed feelings about the military and my experience in it, they really helped me out. I would have never been able to afford my master’s degree and the second master’s that I just got,” Rowland said.
He began his counseling career with an internship in his home town of Pequannock. He said a counseling position opened at Pequannock Valley School, where he worked for a year.
As a new counselor in a town making budget cuts, Rowland said he ended up being released from his job at the middle school. He said a principal from the district informed him about an opening at LHS, and he was hired as a counselor in 2013.
Rowland said he was excited to be working at the high school level because it gave him the opportunity to help students plan their futures with regard to college and careers.
In fact, he said his most rewarding moments as a guidance counselor were seeing his students get accepted to colleges, especially on Instant Decision Day, which occurs every year, as well as graduation day.
“Seeing students who maybe had some issues going on, and it may have been tough for them to even get to that point, watching them graduate is always an awesome moment,” Rowland said.
Rowland said as dean of students, he plans to use his counseling, communication and leadership skills to his advantage.
While Rowland is still responsible for meeting with juniors and helping seniors apply to college, he said he is also in charge of ensuring safety and security in the building, dealing with discipline issues, supporting the administration, assisting counselors and mentoring his students.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Rowland was recognized as Governor’s Educator of the Year. With the recognition came a luncheon, a certificate and a personal parking space. He said he believes he earned the award because of the extra responsibilities he took on after the Student Services Department had been downsized.
Senior Brianna Giaimis, who has had Rowland as a guidance counselor for all four years, said she believes Rowland will do an excellent job as dean of students.
“Mr. Rowland is genuinely here to help. I was bothering him so often at the start of the year with applications and college, and not once did he get frustrated with me or push me to the side,” Giaimis said.
She said Rowland is always willing to help his students and puts them first.
“My schedule was so messed up at the beginning of the year, and I panicked,” Giaimis said. “On the first day of school, before classes even began, Mr. Rowland had me in his office sorting everything out.”
English teacher Ms. Rendzia said Rowland is kind, thoughtful, supportive and humorous. She said he encourages every student to excel and prepares them for the future.
“No matter how busy, how many appointments he has made for the day, Mr. Rowland will put all that aside if a student needs to speak to him for any reason,” Rendzia said.
She said the instances that stand out to her the most were when Rowland helped her daughter Raina, who graduated from LHS in 2019, with the college application process. She said after her first choice schools did not work out, Rowland recommended her daughter apply to Monmouth University in Long Branch, N.J., where she was accepted with an academic scholarship and where she will remain for the rest of her college career.
“He did not panic. He did not minimize her situation,” Rendzia said. “He went to work and solved one of the biggest problems in her life in a short amount of time with a smile on his face and a positive outlook,” Rendzia said.
Rendzia said she expects Rowland to carry his rapport with students into his new role.
“The Mr. Rowland I know will be kind, yet firm, will not be walked on or taken advantage of, but will always make decisions with the student’s best interest at heart,” said Rendzia.