By Maggie Nash, M.Ed., MSW
Director of Mental Health Education, Therapist

January 25, 2024

Josselyn is deeply committed to providing school-based support for students and teachers. One example of a truly integrated, successful program is in the Waukegan Public Schools (WPS) district. Josselyn has placed six education consultant/clinicians within eight elementary schools in Waukegan. While it is widely understood that social-emotional learning (SEL) is important for students, but it can prove difficult to do well, and tends to be the first thing to be dropped from a classroom’s busy schedule.

“We focus on children who display inattention, work refusal, verbal and physical aggression, negative self-statements, suicidal ideations, classroom elopement, and academic struggles. Many teachers are frustrated and burnt out from behaviors that disrupt classroom learning,” said Michelle Clements, MSW, Josselyn education consultant. These challenges cause low school staff retention rates, which perpetuates low student academic achievement and worsening mental well-being. This work can feel like an impossible battle.

However, the recent collaboration between WPS and Josselyn is providing hope in an extremely challenging effort. Our approach is like a three-legged stool; each leg represents students, teachers, and parents/guardians. It is critical that we invest in each leg of the stool, because if not, the stool will topple over.

Leg 1: Providing Students with a Sense of Self

One critical part of the role of education consultants is to provide social-emotional interventions for students who are struggling, but do not qualify for social work hours which are prioritized for students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or a 504 Plan.

“We are reaching students who don’t receive the individualized care that they need, and who struggle with big emotions and behaviors in and out of school. These children would not have the opportunity to have an adult to walk alongside them in their struggles, cheering them on and encouraging them every step of the way,” explained Clements.

Being able to provide group, individualized, or classroom support for these students is already being recognized by WPS teachers. One teacher shared, “[Student] is getting so much better at managing her angry impulses. She knows what to do when the anger starts coming on. I am so proud of her!”

Leg 2: Support for School Staff

Josselyn education consultants work closely with teachers to provide them with tangible, easy to implement strategies to minimize certain behaviors in the classroom.

“The success of our work depends on an underlying trust that the teachers have in our process and in the role that we are playing in the school. We are in this together, and we rely on each other,” said Krista Few, Ph.D., one of Josselyn’s educational consultants.

Josselyn is also providing Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for the WPS District. Youth MHFA is an international, evidenced-based certification program that teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

“The MHFA training is a critical professional development training for every teacher. It provided concrete strategies for having difficult discussions and uncomfortable conversations and also provided tangible skills that I am eager to implement with my students,” said a WPS teacher who completed the MHFA training in December.

Leg 3: Family Education and Resources

Families play a critical role in the success of a student’s social-emotional well-being. However, they can be the hardest to engage. Family support include workshops during dates and times that accommodate work hours. At these workshops, referrals to Josselyn’s therapeutic services are also provided and many families or caregivers are taking advantage of these services.

Our work in Waukegan is but one example of the many schools Josselyn supports. What makes Josselyn’s services unique is our ability to connect with and understand the educational process. Like me, many of our staff have both education and mental health backgrounds, so we understand the challenges teachers face, which allows us to better support them. Which also allows better support for students.

If you would like to learn more about our school-based services, and how we can meet the mental health needs in your local school, please contact me at [email protected].

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