Join Aurora Public Schools March 6-10 as we celebrate National School Social Work Week! The annual celebration, sponsored by the School Social Work Association of America, is a time for us to pause and honor school social workers for the vital role they play in creating and maintaining positive, safe and supportive school climates.
School social workers tend to students' social and emotional needs, help parents access resources, help staff understand underlying factors affecting student performance and much more. In addressing barriers to learning, this team of dedicated staff members empower students academically and behaviorally to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances.
The unique knowledge and skills school social workers bring to our district help build a community of trust between students, staff and families. They also exemplify the APS 2020: Shaping the Future strategic plan core belief that student achievement and growth are driven by a highly-effective and respected staff working as a team.
If you see an APS school social worker this week (or at any time in the future), please thank him or her for their commitment to excellence.
Below are a few members of the APS school social workers team who share their passion for the profession.
Rachel Fox, LSW—APS School Social Worker and Mental Health Team Support
“School social workers play a vital role in our district, serving as agents for positive change through child-centered systems of support. I have worked for Aurora Public Schools for almost six years, and I continue to find my work to be rewarding and fulfilling, both personally and professionally. I am continually learning from the students, families and educators I support and this keeps me going at the end of the day!”
Deborah Mastin—Rangeview High School
“Serving as a school social worker in a high school setting has been incredibly rewarding. The thing I enjoy most is watching students grow from somewhat immature freshmen into young men and women moving on to pursue postsecondary or workforce goals. Having the privilege of working with many of the students for four years really adds to this experience. After 26 years as a social worker—first in mental health and now in education—I can still say that most days, ‘I love my job.’“
Dawn Schierling-Harder, MSW—Crawford Elementary School and Fulton Academy of Excellence
“This is my 26th year as a school social worker in APS and even though I have had many tough years, I still love my job. I love my schools, the people I work with and most of all, my kids! Relationships are so important to our students and I feel connecting to kids is one of my biggest strengths. I have worked at the elementary school level most of my career, which is my absolute favorite age group. I enjoy the energy and hope students give me. So many of our students have experienced trauma most of us could never imagine and their resilience is inspiring to me--honestly, it keeps me going most days. I love their smiles, hugs and waves from across the hall or classroom. Being a school social worker has been incredibly fulfilling and I truly believe that if I had it to do over again, I would be a school social worker.”
Lisa Vratny-Smith, MSW—Meadowood Child Development Center
“My children often tell me I have too much fun at my job when I recount the funny stories of the things I do with my preschool students and the funnier things they say. Having a career that allows me to play, laugh and be silly each day to support the social and emotional development of my students is a joy. While I have a lot of fun, it can also be challenging and difficult at times. The work we do to bridge the gap for students with special needs and addressing other barriers is critical in providing students with the essential tools they need as they begin their educational journey. As a school social worker, I believe supporting the social, emotional and behavioral needs of my students through working with them, their families and their teachers plants the seeds for their life-long success.”
“I’m relatively new to school social work, having started in APS just last year, but I love what I do—there is never a dull moment! I feel really strongly that we have the unique opportunity to work with kids that may not have the opportunity to get mental health support outside of school. I see my job as primarily working with students to identify their strengths and help them have the best possible shot to make the most of themselves, despite outside factors that might be working against them. Sometimes I am their cheerleader and sometimes I have to have tough and honest conversations with the students I work with, but, most of all, I just make sure they know that I believe in them and their capacity to do great things with the hope that they can start to believe it too.”