School psychologists help students cope in and out of the classroom

School psychologists help students focus

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - School psychologists hope you'll take a moment this week to consider their role in a student's learning, an educator's teaching, or the overall experience on campuses across Arizona.

The National Association of School Psychologists recognizes Nov. 11 to Nov. 15 as National School Psychology Awareness Week. Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed the same week as Arizona School Psychology Awareness Week.

The recommended ratio for psychologist to student ratio is one to 500 to 700 students, according to Arizona Association of School Psychologists Southern Region Director Dr. Amy Diebolt. Diebolt, who is a retired school psychologist, said the average ratio nationwide is much higher at one school psychologist to 1,300 or sometimes 1,400 students. She said people outside of the profession might not realize there’s a shortage in Arizona.

“We can’t even fill the ratios that we have right now,” Diebolt said. “There are a number of unfilled positions in the state.”

While there might be some overlap in the support provided by counselors, social workers and psychologists, Diebolt said the latter can provide unique expertise like preventative school-wide programs or individualized assessments of students. They are mandated to complete evaluations.

“A lot of school psychologists are sort of pigeonholed into the evaluation role,” she said. “So we run from school-to-school doing evaluations, which is fine because I love evaluations ... but it’s not the only thing I can do.”

Lisa Favela, co-director of Arizona Association of School Psychologists Southern Region, said that training will be boosted later this week with the state conference in Phoenix. Several hundred school psychologists will meet to share best practices. A recurring topic that continues to need deeper discussion is trauma.

“When students are dealing with emotional situations, it’s very hard for them to engage academically,” Favela said.

The organization hopes a week dedicated to school psychologists will encourage more discussion about their role in education.

Jennifer Arenas-Cardenas, a former teacher, is now a school psychologist. She said the calls for teacher raises were much needed and a benefit for the passionate individuals leading classrooms. She looks forward to similar outcry for the ones who are in a support role.

“Our schools aren’t funded appropriately at the state level,” she said. “We’re not appropriately being funded at the federal level.”

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