Beacon of Hope School Social Work Association of America

Category : Academics

Beacon Of Hope: School Social Workers Lighting The Way with Social-Emotional Support

Monday , March 02 , 2020

Social & Emotional Learning Wheel

This article was written by our School Social Workers.

National School Social Worker Week is March 1-7, 2020, recognizing the contributions of school social workers and highlighting their role in the educational process by providing social and emotional coaching to students; supporting and collaborating with families, teachers, and other professionals; and linking PV students and families with needed services. 

This year’s National School Social Worker Week theme is "Beacon Of Hope: School Social Workers Lighting The Way." Twenty-three schools in the Paradise Valley Unified School District have a school social worker on staff.  While the role of school social workers varies by the needs of each school site, the main focus is to provide the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) support to students using a “whole child” lens, with the goal of promoting student success.  

There is a large body of research showing that the development of SEL skills has a significant ripple effect. Building SEL skills supports resiliency, promotes academic success, builds relationships, and lays the foundation for positive social interactions with others. These skills are critical in helping students learn how to navigate life challenges, transitions, and take initiative. In short, school social workers foster SEL by helping students develop competencies that will last a lifetime!

Why School Social Workers Matter …  

School social workers are trained mental health professionals with a master’s degree in Social Work. While their exact role depends on the needs of the student body and school, social workers identify student strengths and address issues that may interfere with a student’s well being and academic success. This may include family changes, social skills, conflict resolution, parenting skills, community resources and referrals, school attendance, and crisis intervention. In addition, social workers build strong partnerships with other schools and community organizations to support the ongoing needs of their school ranging from school beautification to donations of needed supplies. 

How do they do ALL that? 

Most school social workers strengthen student skills through facilitating individual and small group sessions and classroom presentations, within a variety of topics such as identifying and managing emotions, strategies to managing stress and anxiety, self-talk, maintaining friendships, conflict resolution, building inner character strengths, anti-bullying tips, just to name a few. In addition, they provide a unique, whole child perspective when participating in team meetings, educating team members and identifying factors and needs that impact the student and their learning beyond an academic focus. They provide input into developing non-academic interventions that may be effective to support student learning. Many PV social workers are trained in Trauma Informed Practices that increase student to school connection, improve focus and promote emotional regulation through mindfulness tools and practices. 

Kari Naegele, the lead social worker, said, “At the end of the day, relationships are what matter. We know it is what leads to effective learning in an educational setting. All of our social workers put enormous effort into building positive relationships with our students, their families, and our school communities.”

In PVSchools, you will find school social workers at the elementary, middle, and high schools, working directly with students, teachers, administration and other professionals. You can count on school social workers to be inclusive, knowledgeable and innovative, committed to identifying and addressing the unique SEL needs of our PVSchools students.

During National School Social Work Week, don’t forget to thank your school social worker for all they do to support students, families, and their school by changing futures!  


About the Authors

This article was written by PVSchools social workers –  Sharon Denny, Cindy Schmidt, and Kari Naegele –  who have a combined school social work experience of more than 45 years.