In this episode of Conversations About Student Mental Health, Chris Leonard tackles the question of how to prepare teachers to support the growing social and emotional needs of students. Chris talks with Steven Cates, an interventionist at Southside Community School in Tucson, Arizona, and a participant in Thrive Alliance Group’s Coaching, Training, and Certification program. Chris and Steven discuss a new approach to mental wellness support: raising the capacity of the entire staff to improve school climate & culture.
- How mental wellness training and coaching for school staff improves school climate and culture, which in turn improves student outcomes
- Self-paced training provides flexibility and better retention of learning
- Teachers learn psychological principles around student mental health and trauma, and how these impact behavior and create barriers to learning
- Coaching sessions give staff the chance to share experiences and learn intervention strategies
- Participants gain a set of tools and strategies to support both students & staff members
- How the program builds a sense of community
Excerpt from this episode:
Welcome to our podcast: Conversations About Student Mental Health.
I’m Chris Leonard, Clinical Social Worker and Educator working with children and adolescents for over 30 years. In this podcast, I talk with school administrators, educators, clinicians, and parents to open a dialogue that will help the growing number of students struggling with mental illness.
My guest today is Steven Cates, an interventionist with the Southside Community School in Tucson, Arizona. Steven received his bachelor’s degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing with a focus in poetry from the University of Arizona. He recently completed Thrive’s Coaching and Certification Program and is now a Certified School Mental Wellness Specialist.
We’ll be focusing today on how teacher training and coaching around mental wellness improves school climate and culture which in turn improves student outcomes.
As an interventionist, Steven works with students in grades 1 through 7 who have been identified as potentially needing special education services, either one-on-one, or in small groups. Steven assesses whether each student has just fallen behind and needs some extra or different instruction to catch up with a class, if there’s something going on in their life that makes school harder, or if perhaps they may need to be evaluated for services. Steven has also provided private tutoring and worked in a group home for developmentally disabled people to help them learn the skills they need to live more independently. In his free time Steven enjoys writing, collaborative storytelling, and role playing.
Like many educators, Steven has been seeing first hand the issues students have been facing leading up to and as a result of the pandemic. Steven’s school decided to engage Thrive Alliance Group to help staff develop the knowledge and skills to better support students with mental health challenges.
Welcome Steven. I’d like to start by having you share some of what you have been experiencing as it relates to the mental health crisis and how it has made your job more challenging. I’m curious in particular about what you and your colleagues were experiencing at the beginning of this school year prior to participating in Thrive’s coaching & certification program?
From what you are describing, you and your team were experiencing some significant challenges. This has been a tough time for educators across the country. It reminds me of the alarming results of the January 2022 National Educational Association membership poll. Just to review some of the results of that survey: 90% of respondents said that teacher burnout was a serious problem, 80% reported that unfilled job openings increased work responsibilities for remaining school staff, 55% said they would leave the education profession earlier than they had planned, and 86% said they have seen colleagues leaving for early retirement or another profession.
Steven, I’m wondering what you have observed about these trends? Many school districts have been at a loss for how to address the double whammy of mounting student issues and staff stress. But Southside had the foresight to sign on with Thrive’s mental health training and coaching. Let’s dig deeper on your impressions and experiences of the program.
Click on the recording above to listen to the rest of the conversation.
Conversations About Student Mental Health is brought to you by Thrive Alliance Group, partners in school-based mental wellness.