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SSWNETWORK Forum: Getting Real About Educator Mental Health

SSWNETWORK Forum:  Getting Real About Educator Mental Health

Hello SSWN friends: This project has been in the works here at SSWN and our SSWNetwork for a while now, and I’m so excited to share more of it with you today. Starting in December and into 2020, all of our current Loyola School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program (SMHAPP) students will be “hosting” a week on our site, sharing information about their SMHAPP project work and responding to critical issues impacting K-12 schools and school mental health practice. As we move into our first week of 2020, it’s week #5 of our SMHAPP SSWNetwork Takeover–this week we welcome Shannon Sterling and Samantha Prystawik, members of the 4th Loyola SMHAPP cohort, who will be leading discussion and sharing resources here and on SSWNetwork about the topic of understanding and enhancing the mental health of educators (teachers, school clinicians, everybody) . Just as we’ve done before, will help us end the week over at SSWNetwork with a LiveChat January 25th from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. central time where we’ll come together to discuss what we learned over the past week. Here in their own words is what they’re going to be doing this week, along with their biographical information. Take it away, Sam and Shannon, and we hope to see all of you on Saturday morning for our LiveChat!

Intro from Sam and Shannon: “Whether you’re a school social worker or a teacher, you’re in a very important line of work responsible for the education and well-being of our youth and our collective future. Of course, doing this work involves a lot of stress and likely poses daily challenges for us that can start to build up if we don’t make a conscious effort to maintain our mental health. This week will contain suggestions and examples for improving your own mental health and supporting the growth of a school staff’s well-being, breaking down the barriers getting in the way of implementation, and research on the topic to illuminate the realities of mental illness and self-care.”

Tuesday- Sharing some initial data about mental illness, both for the educators and for the students


Students: Data will be posted on SSWNetwork, join us there (always free to join)

Wednesday- Having well-being is a skill and takes practice: how well do you implement these 4 keys to well-being?

This article will be our starting point and we’ll continue the conversation over at SSWNetwork.

Friday- Direct suggestions/examples of implementation in schools:

Some examples to get us started:

Saturday live chat, SSWNetwork 9-10 a.m. central:

Talking about how people see positive mental health environments in their buildings, plans to implement a suggestion from the week either personally or professionally, conversation about current self-care practices that people are using–bring your ideas and best practices and share them with us.

Meet our Loyola SMHAPP Student Hosts

Samantha Prystawik is in her 3rd year of teaching as a 7th and 8th grade Special Education teacher in Shorewood, WI. She grew up in a small town in Southeastern Wisconsin and attended college at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, earning her degree in Special Education. Prior to working in Shorewood, she spent one-year teaching in Cambridge, MA, as a 9th and 10th grade Special Education teacher at the Community Charter School of Cambridge. In addition to her normal teaching responsibilities, Samantha is also the Student Advisory Council advisor, is a part of the RTI and Restorative Practices workgroups in her District, and is also in her first year of the SMHAPP program at Loyola. Outside of school, Samantha is passionately following the Milwaukee Brewers and the Green Bay Packers, watching “Game of Thrones” or “New Girl,” and is most recently spending her time planning a wedding! 

Shannon Sterling, LMSW, is a Chicago-suburb native who transplanted herself to Iowa in 2011 to attend the University of Iowa, where she obtained her BSW in 2015. During her undergraduate practicum, she discovered that working in an elementary school was the right career path for her, and went to St. Ambrose University where she earned her MSW and School Social Work endorsement in 2016. She is in her 4th year working in the Area Education Agency system serving elementary schools in several capacities, but primarily special education identification and support. She is also in her first year of completing the SMHAPP certificate at Loyola and serves on the ISSWA board as treasurer. In her spare time, she enjoys playing video games, watching cooking shows while cuddling with her two dogs, and going on cruises with her husband.

About The Author

Michael Kelly

Michael S. Kelly PhD, LCSW is the Lucian and Carol Welch Matusak Professor and Director of the School Mental Health Advanced Practice certificate and Family and School Partnerships Program at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Social Work. Prior to coming to Loyola in Fall 2006, he was a school social worker, family therapist, and youth minister in the Chicago area for 14 years. He has authored over 80 journal articles, books, and book chapters on school social work, evidence-based practice (EBP), and positive youth development. He is a fellow of the Oxford Symposium for School-Based Family Counseling, co-Chair of the Society for Social Work & Research SSW Special Interest Group, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of School Social Work, and Associate Editor of School Mental Health. He has recently brought his work on school mental health and EBP to researchers and practitioners in England, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Canada, Chile, and Japan.

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