Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed the week of Nov. 7 to 11 as School Psychology Awareness Week in order to recognize the important work school psychologists do to help students succeed.
The theme of this year’s National School Psychology Week, which is also Nov. 7 to 11, is “Together We Shine.”
School psychologists across the state work with students, parents and other staff members to implement interventions to address behavioral and academic struggles. They also conduct evaluations of students who are suspected of having a disability and might require specially-designed instruction.
Twelve school psychologists work at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. They serve pre-K through high school students and also work in alternative programs, including the Virtual Learning Academy.
“I chose school psychology because I think it's incredible to work with a team of educators that have the same goal in creating a positive environment for students and bolstering their success,” Emily Heghmann, a psychologist at Chapel Hill High School, said.
The CHCCS psychologists, while they have individual caseloads, share resources and knowledge with one another, according to Heghmann.
Heghmann is in her second year at CHHS. In addition to the broader responsibilities of evaluating students and determining the best educational programming for them, she said she began training this year to conduct psychotherapy sessions.
The 16-week sessions, during which Heghmann said she will work entirely with Hispanic students, will help students identify stressors and how to overcome them.
“It's really important to have these services in schools because not everybody has the opportunity to access them outside of school, whether that be for socio-economic reasons, including transportation or different levels of concern in housing,” Heghmann said.
Heghmann said the psychologists in the county have been thanking and celebrating one another this week.
She added that school psychologists work in a team to provide services to students, collaborating with social workers, counselors, mental health specialists and teachers.
Weldon Bullock, a mental health specialist at CHHS, said his position is intervention-based, while school psychologists offer evaluations and accommodations. He provides resources, training and techniques to help students manage their mental health.
He said there is a lot of pressure on high school students to succeed academically, which can be overwhelming for them.
“Somebody who's under a lot of stress, or somebody who feels anxious and stuff all the time, your cognitive reasoning goes down, and your analytical skills go down. And overall, you're not prepared to really show someone your enrichment,” Bullock said.
Teonaka Daye, the coordinator of psychological services at CHCCS, supervises and supports the work of the 12 psychologists and provides professional development. Daye spoke about the importance of recognizing school psychologists for the hard work they put into their craft.
“As psychologists, our goal is to help students be successful academically, socially, behaviorally and emotionally,” Daye said.
Daye added that collaboration with other mental health support providers also ensures a comprehensive approach to helping students succeed.
CHCCS has been understaffed with psychologists in the past. Daye said having a full staff of psychologists this school year is invaluable to establishing a healthy home and school relationships for students.
“We have the opportunity when we're in schools to be able to help cultivate safe, productive learning environments, but to also be a bridge there for positive home-school collaboration, again getting back to that holistic support that we can provide for our students,” Daye said.
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