The National Association of School Psychologists designated last week as National School Psychology Awareness Week, observed Nov. 9–13.

This year’s theme, “Connect the Dots and THRIVE!” highlighted the importance of connecting students to the academic and social-emotional skills they need to promote personal achievement, growth and resilience, as well as a sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Association President Todd A. Savage said this year’s theme is meant to highlight connections between all the different factors contributing to student success.

“School climate, access to services and supports, and academic and social-emotional skills all have an impact on students’ abilities to achieve their best,” Savage said. “School psychologists work every day to enhance the connections between students, schools, and the evidence-based practices to help them thrive.”

This year, Ameet Boleigh, school psychologist at the Center for Innovative Learning at Pinecrest, has been working to improve the school’s climate and student access to services and supports.

He has worked to implement the Tiers of Intensive and Educationally Responsive Services, or TIERS, model to better address the needs of the students placed at CIL.

Boleigh has been working for the past year on building capacity at CIL to enhance connections with parents, students, and administrators.

“When you’re a catalyst for change, you must first build capacity amongst your staff and students to carry out that change,” Boleigh said.

School psychologists have specialized training in child and adolescent mental health, development, learning, interventions, assessment, evaluation and school law. A focus this year has been on helping teachers and schools implement research-based interventions for students who struggle.

Chelsea Montgomery, a school psychologist who serves as a program specialist in the Department of Special Programs, has worked to create an intervention website with research-based resources for schools throughout the district to use. She is conducting trainings for teachers using the website empowering them to find tools to help students who struggle.

Kate Simcox, school psychologist at Jefferson Elementary, has been working with teachers to implement more positive behavior interventions and supports. She is working with teachers to increase positive school culture and time spent in the classroom on instruction.

Simcox noted “I want students at school to learn, I want them to have time to learn. I want to make a positive culture so they can feel comfortable and able to learn.”

When asked about the important role of school psychologists, Cassie Cagle, director of Special Programs, noted that, “In the past, school psychologists have been primarily viewed as testers with the sole responsibility of evaluating students for eligibility for special education. Our school psychologists are trained to do so much more.”

For more information, call Philip Young, Department of Special Programs at 803-641-2624.