Atlanta Public Schools recognizes the incredible work of our school psychologists during National School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW), Nov. 12 – 16. The APS Division of Psychological Services comprises 25 school psychologists who provide evaluations, counseling and consultative services to Pre-K-12th grade students. Each school psychologist serves three-five schools and are active participants in district-wide crisis teams that make decisions regarding educational planning for students.
In turn, cross functional teams work to improve the academic performance and social-emotional functioning of the students in APS’ traditional and charter schools.
In celebration of SPAW, APS school psychologists have chosen to give back to the children and communities they serve. In support of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the Psychological Services staff have raised $400 toward gift cards that will be donated to APS’ homeless families. In addition, several school psychologists are sharing their time and resources by providing social-emotional learning during classroom instruction, donating books to schools, and presenting to high school, undergraduate and graduate students about the field of school psychology.
“School psychologists bring a unique set of skills to school teams,” said MaryAnn Green, coordinator of Psychological Services. “Our practice is a hybrid of education, counseling, statistics and clinical psychology, and we’re often tasked with using our training and skills to aid school teams in difficult decision making that impacts struggling students and schools.
School psychologists also work diligently to address and prevent maladaptive behaviors, such as bullying and school violence, which impact the culture of our schools, Green added. “It’s a tough job, but it’s rewarding.”
Our school psychologists are busy! Here’s a sneak peak into their work.
Maurice Granger, Ed.D.
APS school psychologist Maurice Granger, Ed.D. established an innovative program at Forrest Hill Academy to enhance the social-emotional competencies of high school male students through positive interactions with kindergartners at Hutchinson Elementary School. The students serve as teacher assistants while building positive relationships with their assigned classes. The program was established in 2014 and has been featured on WSB-TV Channel 2 and 11Alive news networks.
Dr. Granger also facilitates a weekly conflict resolution group with sixth-grade boys who were selected by their administrator. The students learn self-monitoring strategies, effective problem solving, and engage in team-building activities. Select eighth graders participate in the group as peer leaders.
Kweli Musa, Ed. S.
The love of plants and all things living
Kweli Musa, Ed.S., worked with students parents and teachers to create terrariums, which are miniature indoor gardens inside a glass/plastic container. He purchased plants and decorative supplies (colored sand, rocks, pebbles, marbles and glass containers) for the school. Musa said he finds “great joy in seeing someone create something with their own hands.” He said the activities have long-term impact on students and communities because they help teach students the importance of taking care of the Earth and empowers them to care for their environment.
“Caring for pets in school is one way to teach children about empathy and responsibility, and having interactions with pets provide an increased sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others,” Musa said. “Students can see, feel, touch and make connections to the world of animals.”
With the help of students and teachers, Musa cares for different animals, which include an aquatic turtle, guinea pig, leopard gecko, tarantula, goldfish, tropical fish, hermit crabs, red claw crab, aquatic snails and betta fish.
Musa also purchased and read books to students in two of his classes. “It is very important to me to increase children’s access to appropriate print materials,” he said. “Taking the books home hopefully gave the parents and caregivers more opportunity to read and talk to their children.”
Mia Hunt, Ed.S
Mia Hunt, Ed.S., and GSU school psychology practicum student Paris Ball have been practicing weekly mindfulness activities with a group of students at Heritage Academy Elementary School.
“Mindfulness can add to the quality of our lives in numerous ways, from nurturing a sense of inner peace and improving the quality of a workout, to enhancing self-confidence and facilitating deeper and more meaningful relationships with others,” Hunt said. “In children specifically, mindfulness has been found to improve mental health and well-being, mitigate the effects of bullying, enhance focus in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and improve social skills when well taught and practiced in children and adolescents.”
“It is important for caregivers and educators to provide age-appropriate mindfulness practices for children,” Hunt added.