In Poudre School District, 33 well trained, caring school psychologists focus on understanding and supporting students through the difficulties of adolescence. Many students go their entire school career without needing the support of school psychologists but for others, these experts are invaluable.
The role of a school psychologist is constantly in motion. They work directly with students and are experts in intervention design; behavioral assessment; direct intervention; and addressing mental health needs with all students through assessment. They work directly with counselors, teachers and administrators on understanding behaviors to help meet each student’s individual needs. They also help parents with their concerns and how best to navigate these concerns.
Brittany Hutson has held the role of lead school psychologist in Poudre School District for the past five years. Her love of students and the way their brains grow and develop over time led her to become a school psychologist. Hutson and her team work tirelessly to learn the ‘why’ behind student behaviors.
All comprehensive high schools have a full time school psychologist. Most comprehensive middle school psychologists are full time or close to full time and elementary schools have a school psychologist in their buildings multiple times per week. Many principals are seeing the value of having a full time psychologist and are increasing their building support by using their individual schools’ budgets to address mental health needs, behaviors, interventions and social skills for all students.
As any mental health professional will tell you, behavior is a form of communication. They must figure out what is going on to best understand each student and to help students find and use appropriate forms of behavior. “We have an amazing group of experts in their fields” says Hutson. Many school psychologists are experts in areas as diverse as trauma, behavior, academic interventions and reading disorders to mention a few. Hutson explains that by having people versed in many different areas, they are able to work together as one unit to share their skill sets. “They do a good job of addressing student needs!” says Hutson.
Rice Elementary School principal Karen Kohen says, “Having a full time psychologist at Rice has dramatically changed the way we are able to support students with emotional, mental health, and behavior needs. Not only our students with disabilities, but also our general education students who are challenged in these areas are now receiving one-on-one or small group support. In the same way interventionists address the needs of students who struggle academically by targeting specific skills, our psychologist addresses the specific mental health needs of our struggling students. Our psychologist also provides support to the teachers by providing tools and strategies to use within the classroom so that ALL students can be successful.”
Christine Hendricks, principal at Tavelli Elementary School says “Our school psychologist is a critical part of the core team that supports all students at Tavelli. I value that she observes, assesses, works with and writes plans for any student that has social emotional, behavioral or academic needs. I value the work of our school psychologist. She is currently at my school three and a half days a week and I would love to have her five days a week!”
The African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Never have truer words been spoken.
Poudre School District Integrated Services Director: Sarah Belleau 2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521