School Psychology Awareness Week: Our School Psychologists

Rebecca Benjamin, Staff Writer


School Psychology Awareness Week is November 11-15! It is important to recognize the contributions that our school psychologists make for our students to flourish and advance in a learning environment. The field of School Psychology branches beyond the scope of our imagination. It is a unique profession that no description can truly expound. In this article, we will venture into the different roles, responsibilities, and experiences our three school psychologists undertake to create a stronger community at WTHS.

Mr. Jordan (Almond Campus)

Mr. Jordan is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist with an Education Specialist Degree. He was brought up in a family of educators, but more specifically, his mother worked as a special education teacher for over 30 years. During this time she worked alongside a school psychologist of whom she always spoke highly of. This led him to wonder how a school psychologist can support students with differing needs. At the point in his life when he was nearing the completion of his undergraduate degree in psychology, he wasn’t sure what profession to consider. However, he knew he wanted to work within a school environment. Therefore, he took on a position at Northbrook Jr. High as an aide in a special education classroom, and through his experience, he was able to help students problem-solve and build skills to better understand their strengths and weaknesses as learners. Reflecting on these experiences, he aspired to go to graduate school and pursue a career in School Psychology. 

He attended the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed a three-year full-time course of study. During his years in graduate school, he pursued a specialist-level degree equivalent to a Master’s Degree plus thirty graduate semester hours. During the first year of his graduate training, he fulfilled academic coursework while simultaneously working one day a week under the direction of a school psychologist to have a substantial understanding of how to operate and function in a school setting. During his second year in graduate school, he completed practicum work in a high school two days a week under the supervision of a school psychologist while managing his graduate-level coursework. In his final year, he was allowed to operate as a school psychologist through a full-year internship while attending seminar classes once a month. He graduated in 2014, and from his training, he was given numerous opportunities to work in different educational environments, and most importantly, with a diverse population of students across multiple grade levels. Following graduate school, he interviewed for the school psychologist position at WTHS and has been happily working here ever since!

Special education evaluations are a central component of Mr. Jordan’s numerous responsibilities. A school psychologist is the only person who can determine whether or not a student has a disability within a school setting. They mainly determine and strategize a program for students with unique needs. Fundamentally, this includes evaluations of tests and written reports which present an assessment of the student’s learning capabilities and gauge the most effective academic approach for that student’s future. When a student is referred for a special education evaluation, the goal is to lay hold of the core issues in the student’s learning abilities and grasp their strengths as a learner. At a high school level, documentation about a student’s disability already exists. Hence, it is more of his job to document progress and improvement in the skills of these students regarding where they have adapted to after high school. His reports are tailored more for the next chapter in their lives concerning their ability to function independently. 

Mr. Jordan is also in an ideal position to facilitate the execution of systems-level reform. This includes analyzing methods of collecting data on student achievement and enhancing methods of intervention, which extend throughout the school, in order to maximize student growth. He collaborates with school personnel to identify any concerns within the school system. The conversation about the best ways to encourage students and heed to their social and emotional needs is continuously in circulation, and if a majority of students can be supported on a whole-scale, there will be less of a necessity for individual counseling. Currently, he is collaborating with a group of classrooms to advocate for the benefits of having a growth mindset: the notion that any ability can be accomplished through dedication, resilience, and hard work.

The general preconceived notion about school psychologists is that they offer psychotherapy to clients within the school. Although individual counseling and intervention for students are parts of his job, they do not comprise all of his responsibilities. The overarching goal is to support students’ mental health and well being in order to restore academic functioning. This job is mainly shared between social workers, but depending on the needs of a particular student, whether it’s poor academic performance or a serious threat to a student’s mental health, there are a variety of cases that can be placed in his hands for evaluation.

The best piece of advice Mr. Jordan has for students is that they must always be grateful for the opportunities they are given. We shouldn’t simply go through the decision-making process in high school with no regard for our motivations or the values behind our actions. Why do we dress the way we dress? Why do we talk the way we talk? Are we merely sauntering through life without a centralized purpose? Values are what drive a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. When we give in to our impulses and allow stimulating events to guide us, we fail to embrace the qualities of an experience. Do we make meaning out of our life, or do we view life as a series of obligations? It takes a lifetime to figure it out, but he always holds true that “Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them” (Tolle). When we can take time to reflect on our decisions, we get closer to understanding where our purpose lies. 

Overall, Mr. Jordan is an endless story. There is always a unique situation in need of a more engaged perspective, a team hoping to cultivate understanding, a demand for an adaptive approach, or a student looking for guidance. Regardless, he is unfailingly equipped to contribute and maximize change within the school community, and he does so with a mind that is eager to grow and a heart that is inclined to serve. Beyond his unabated passion, his sense of determination and desire for discovery continue to drive his success. 

Ms. Belgard (O’Plaine Campus)

Ms. Belgard is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist with an Education Specialist Degree. Initially, Ms. Belgard always knew she wanted to work with kids. In high school, she tutored and babysat, and during her college years, she worked in a daycare.

In turn, she wanted a job that allowed her to focus her attention on one kid at a time. She pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a Women’s Studies minor, and afterward, she went on to complete a graduate program where she pursued a specialist-level degree through SIUE’s clinical child and school psychology program within the Department of Psychology. A year and a half into the program, she completed a Masters of Science in Clinical Child and School Psychology, and she finished with a Specialist in School Psychology. During her last year, she completed a full-term internship in which she was under the direction of a supervisor,  observing and practicing five days a week. While she fulfilled her academic requirements, she followed through with a different practicum each semester in which she was able to apply classroom skills in the public environment and observe professional school psychologists. She graduated in 2018 and has earned experience in St. Louis and Chicago. 

Ms. Belgard is a crucial component of IEP planning. She is involved in the process of seeing students who receive special education services and facilitates updated testing every three years. It is her core responsibility to give these students assessments in order to further understand their challenges and areas of improvement. She also works in close association with the Speech and Language Pathologist in order to enhance the communication, social, and behavioral skills of students in special education.

Ms. Belgard is currently helping with the mail run in the Careers Class which is intended to aid students in the areas of independent living, and eventually, the students will start to sell coffee and brownies to teachers and staff. This year, there has also been a major focus on the LGBTQ students at WTHS. It has been her objective to attend to their needs and ensure their sense of comfort and well-being is upheld within the school. 

Ms. Belgard, along with the other school psychologists, cooperates with a large portion of our school personnel. The deans work very closely with her for when there are students with chronic disciplinary issues, there must be an underlying cause that should be addressed. Counselors also report students with poor academic performance to her to further investigate the source of poor conduct. Case managers, members of the IEP team who deliver special education services, are in direct communication with her given that the school psychologists are the related service providers. She even associates with the registrar, the official who is responsible for keeping an academic record of each individual student, in order to gain an understanding of students’ permanent records. 

Ms. Belgard believes all students should take a lesson from the following quote by Vivian Greene. Everyone has a storm in their life. Some storms are small. Others cause havoc. Nevertheless, everyone deserves acknowledgment of their problems. It is important to see that there is always a solution, and sometimes that solution comes through communication. We must always appraise what is good in life. She possesses a natural tendency to give., she promotes the value of emotional support, and she is always willing to devote her time to students who are disregarded or in need of a friend to listen. 

Mrs. Hernandez (O’Plaine Campus)

Mrs. Hernandez is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist with an Education Specialist Degree. She initially intended on becoming a Registered Nurse and pursued a Nursing Major with a minor in Psychology. She became a Certified Nursing Assistant along the way, given that becoming a CNA is required within the nursing major, but the elements of Psychology never ceased to grasp her interest. Therefore, two years into Nursing, she changed her major and pursued a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology with a Hispanic Health and Human Services minor.

Following her undergraduate education, she took a four-year break. At the outset, she wasn’t sure about what profession to consider, so she decided to start working. She facilitated in-school and after-school programs in Round Lake high school and middle school and Waukegan middle schools. While she progressed in these programs, she worked in close association with a School Psychologist, and her interactions inspired her to pursue a specialist-level degree in School Psychology. 

Subsequently, she attended the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and completed the Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology in which she embarked on the 4-year part-time program. During the first two years of this program, she fulfilled academic coursework, but in her third year, she entered practicum training in which she worked within a school while concurrently completing her courses. In her fourth year, she completed a full-year internship in which she was working in a school 5 days a week. She was able to graduate in 2019, and she has also obtained Illinois Bilingual Certification. All School Psychologists in Illinois who work directly with children who derive from a bilingual background are required to possess the Bilingual Special Education Approval credential. 

Her exposure to the environment in Waukegan and Round Lake revealed the need for bilingual school psychologists in Illinois. At WTHS, there is a large population of Spanish-speaking students. She held a connection and a sense of empathy for their lifestyle and experiences, and she believed her numerous skills could be a valuable asset. She wanted a profession that was unique and remarkable; one that not everyone could undertake. Hence, she has become a part of District 121 this year. 

Mrs. Hernandez’s job specializes in the realm of counseling and crisis in which she assesses students for suicide risk and identifies the needs of intervention for students with critical mental health issues. She is currently fulfilling the hybrid role that has been a new position this year at WTHS. This job comprises the tasks of both a School Psychologist and a Social Worker. 

The counseling component of School Psychology is a primary role that she undertakes in which she provides counseling services for students on a day to day basis. This service is offered for students in both the general education population and the special education population who require a set amount of counseling minutes per week. She works alongside the nurse who refers students with concerns of anxiety and emotional issues, and she is also heavily involved in communication with parents and teachers who identify concerns about a student’s behavior or academic performance. Given that Mrs. Hernandez is Bilingual Certified, she is always eager to aid deans and social workers involved with Native Spanish speakers. Although her responsibilities branch throughout the entire school, her ultimate goal is to heed to the social and emotional needs of any student. 

Currently, she is working with the Peer Conflict Resolution Group alongside the school social workers. From this group, students involved with aggressive and violent behavior undergo an eight-week program in which they are walked through anger management strategies in order to minimize future physical or verbal altercations.

As a Mexican-American, Mrs. Hernandez grew up in a culture with a stigma around mental health. There are those who are forced to conceal their emotions until it takes over their lives. Not everyone has the liberty to talk about their feelings. Not everyone is aware of their resources. Hence, she wanted to be a shoulder for these students to lean on and a confidant for them to share their troubles. She is an ardent advocate for mental health. Her ability to reach out to a particular demographic of individuals has allowed her to create a place of comfort for parents who feel limited by their language. She is a voice for the Spanish-speaking community at WTHS, and she channels a sense of awareness and acceptance that expands beyond her role as a school psychologist. Her power to identify and share the emotions of her students is what makes her a valuable component of WTHS. 

There is no true way to outline the responsibilities of a school psychologist. Every day is exceptional. Our school psychologists strengthen our school with an attitude of determination and integrity. Not only do they devote their lives to prevention and intervention efforts in our school system, but they are a voice for the neglected populations in our school. They bring out the capacity of success in others, and their sense of humanity and commitment to our community is the reason why School Psychology is a profession worthy of full recognition.


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Hernandez, Geraldine. Personal Interview. 31 Oct. 2019

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