CATEGORY: Teachers and Leaders

Tolu May 30, 2024

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we couldn鈥檛 let the month go by without amplifying those who keep this awareness core to our mission. As an organization, 十分六合彩 is deeply committed to fostering a joyful learning environment where social-emotional health and psychological safety are a top priority for our staff and students. Social workers like Liza, who works at 十分六合彩 Aspire Elementary School and is a parent to an AF scholar, make this possible each and every day. We connected with Liza to learn more about what inspired her to pursue the social work field, how she creates an environment of mental wellness for her students, and how she balances being both an AF staff member and parent! What inspired you to pursue the social work field? I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child. During this time, she always spoke to me about the things she saw in me. I remember her telling me that I possessed a nurturing characteristic when it came to children. She knew I would go into education as a teacher or become a mother with many children. Ironically, I work in education and have four children.聽 During my career, I was in a leadership role, but was unable to continue my advancement without a master鈥檚 in social work. This was the extra push I needed to return to school, and that is what I did.聽聽 I know you currently serve as the social worker at Aspire ES. Can you tell us more about your journey of becoming a social worker at 十分六合彩? After I obtained my MSW, I decided to switch to education. This decision was based on me having a small child and it would be a great work life balance to have her attend the school I worked at. A social worker alum from Hunter reached out and shared that AF was looking for a social worker, and I submitted my resume. When Team Talent recruited me, I was scheduled to interview for a Dean of Culture position available that summer, but then an immediate position for social worker became available. Fortunately, they took a chance on me and hired me for AF University Prep HS. 十分六合彩 was the first place I held a position as a social worker. Now, here I am about to start my 5th school year with 十分六合彩 as a social worker. That鈥檚 amazing to hear! What are you doing with students and staff at Aspire ES to build awareness around mental health and wellness? I conduct regular check-ins with students during arrival, lunch, or even in passing, to make sure they are emotionally and mentally doing well. I also stop into classrooms and check in with teachers.聽 I will ask questions such as 鈥渉ow are you feeling today?鈥 and remind them to make sure you are taking time for yourself, don鈥檛 forget to put your mental state first if you are feeling overwhelmed.聽 I encourage them to share how they feel with leadership, especially if they need support. I offer help whenever possible in whatever way possible. Lastly, I have an open-door policy for them to just escape and take a 5-minute breather with or without me in my office.聽 I know your daughter attends AF Aspire. Can you share what it is like being an AF parent? How do you balance being an AF parent and staff member? I find being an AF parent and employee as an advantage. I can address concerns immediately, while supporting my daughter and her teachers. It is easier for me to gain clarity on homework or areas of struggle and how I can better support her. Although I do make an effort to separate my double role, there is a slight benefit to it. [In addition to being a school social worker,] I currently teach Geodes for a group of students in 1st grade, which happens to be the grade my daughter is in. The students enjoy me being Kamryn鈥檚 mom and their teacher. I believe it was helpful when I started being in the classroom. My daughter is aware, even though mommy works in her school, there are still things that are out of my control, and she must follow her teachers. I treat all the students as my children, which makes it easy to balance being a social worker and a parent. What is some advice you would give to parents about having conversations with their children about mental health? I would tell parents to always try to be available to listen. Build relationships with your children that make them feel comfortable talking to you. Always validate their emotions and feelings.聽 Just because they are children doesn't mean they don鈥檛 experience stress and anxiety, or other forms of mental health they may need support with. If possible, observe your child鈥檚 behavior and try to identify what may be causing the concern, have open communication with the school to compare behavior, and show interest in your child鈥檚 life. There is no conversation too small or big to listen to. Let your child know there is always additional support if they need it and that is alright. Parents should also be open and comfortable to seek out outside services to better support their child. What is the most rewarding thing about being a social worker at AF Aspire? Hands down, the most rewarding thing about being a social worker at AF Aspire would be the relationships I have built with the students and their families. The smile on the students鈥 faces, the hugs, the cards, and them feeling comfortable speaking to me about the events in their lives, good or bad. Parents feel they can always contact me for extra support and lastly working with an amazing leadership team and staff.聽 We want to give a special thank you to Liza, our social workers, and all of our staff for providing a school environment of mental wellness for our students!聽 You can keep up with AF Aspire ES and all the wonderful things they are doing by following their !

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