BGPS recognizes student mental health advocates during School Psychology week
Nov. 10, 2021
November 8-12 is National School Psychology week, a time to recognize the efforts of the professionals who work tirelessly to help keep our students healthy and mentally ready to learn. The theme of this year’s recognition is “Let’s Get in Gear,” with ‘gear’ acting as an acronym meaning to Grow, Engage, Advocate, and Rise.
“School psychologists have always played an instrumental role in our district, but they are more important now than ever,” said Ellen Wiessner, the district’s executive director of special services. “We are seeing an increase in kids needing social-emotional help coming off the isolation of the pandemic.”
School psychologists primarily work within the special education process, generally acting as “case managers” at their buildings. The services they provide include counseling, group work, and guiding the multidisciplinary special education team processes. Psychologists also develop behavior support plans for specific students.
“Our practices promote positive behavior and mental wellness, create a safe and positive school climate, strengthen family-school partnerships, support diverse learners and improve school-wide assessment and accountability,” said Holly Smith, the district’s lead psychologist who splits her time between Tukes Valley Middle and Primary schools. “The school psychologists in Battle Ground have been exceptional this year in helping reintegrate students back into a more traditional school year, and they have done this with an increase in work assignments due to a nationwide shortage of school psychologists.”
In a typical year, Battle Ground Public Schools employs 18 school psychologists and an intern. With staffing shortages, the district currently has 14 full-time psychologists and an intern, meaning many are splitting time between buildings.
School psychologists also help to lead each school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team. These teams work to set the school’s behavioral expectations and create a system of tiered support for students who do not follow the expectations. In Battle Ground Public Schools, staff teach behavioral expectations to students just as they would any core subject, and reinforce those expectations with acknowledgement and school and classroom rewards such as dress up days and extra recesses.
“Our school psychologists are a small but strong group of individuals,” Wiessner said. “We appreciate all that they do for our students, staff and families. They have stepped up and given it their all.”
If you have a chance, be sure to send your school psychologist a note to say “thank you” for all they do to help students thrive and grow each year, no matter the circumstances.
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