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Rockwood School Social Workers Rise to Meet Challenges and Help Students, Families

March 6, 2023

 Three Rockwood school social workers smile in their schools along with a SSW Week graphicSchool social worker Sierra Gribble splits her time between the four elementary schools in the Fenton quadrant of the Rockwood School District – Bowles, Kellison, Stanton and Uthoff Valley.

She holds regular wellness check-ins with students, responds to crisis situations, connects families with necessary resources within the school and the community and collaborates with counselors and administrators to address other needs, among other daily responsibilities.

Her favorite part of the job?

A Rockwood school social worker smiles in her school“All of it,” Gribble said, with a laugh. “It’s being that person for the kids and knowing that they can come to me with whatever it is they need from me, and I will do my best to do it. Knowing that I can have a positive impact on the kids I work with and their families, it helps me carry a smile every day. I just want to be the best school social worker I can.”

The more than 20 Rockwood school social workers are instrumental in furthering the mission of our school district by providing a caring environment for teaching, learning and for attaining competence and confidence. They are trained professionals who assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents and administrators and individual and group counseling and therapy.

The week of March 5-11, 2023, is National School Social Work Week, an opportunity for schools, communities and partners to acknowledge and recognize the impactful work they do to support students, families and their communities.

A Rockwood school social worker smiles in her school“Students don’t leave all outside influences at the door when they enter the building,” said Eureka High school social worker April Welch. “If that’s impacting a student’s learning, that’s where we come in to try to help them work through that or minimize whatever they’re dealing with. Whether it’s getting them in an emotional state to where they can go back into the classroom and learn or it’s providing services for outside of school, with social workers, it really helps minimize those barriers.”

This year’s theme for National School Social Work Week is “We Rise.” School social workers face the challenges encountered by our students and families with strength and resilience and help them “rise up” -- supporting their students, families and school communities.

Rockwood’s school social workers, along with social-emotional behavior specialists (SEBs) at the high schools, help students focus on learning with support inside and outside of the school building.

A Rockwood employee smiles in a head-and-shoulders pictureKatie Waters, the SEB at Marquette High, said her job entails providing individual and group therapeutic services to support students’ social-emotional needs, focusing on areas such as mental health struggles, family/peer conflict, grief/loss, social skills and behavior concerns.

"I work in collaboration with our social worker, counselors, teachers, administrators and other school staff to enhance student well-being and safety," Waters said. "I have always appreciated the unique opportunity to serve young people within the school setting because of its ability to reduce barriers to services. SEBs provide critical mental health services to support student wellness both in and outside of school; we are one piece of the puzzle in supporting the whole student." 

Outside of school, our staff members also partner with community entities – as well as Rockwood-specific organizations such as Rockwood Gives Back and Got Your Back Pack – to help relieve impediments to the school experience.

A Rockwood school social worker smiles in her school“In middle school, we’re getting them at the peak time when, if we can come in, we can create a lot of protective factors that can set them up for success later on in life,” said Wildwood Middle social worker Caitlin Seiler. “We’re meeting them where they are, and we get to enter into this space and have constant contact with the kids and develop relationships. It’s super important because they’re here and they need that support to better succeed later on.”

Rockwood school social workers are here for our students and families, whatever form that takes.

“Developing relationships with students allows you to get to know them and their personalities,” Welch said. “There are moments that are hard, but there are moments that are filled with laughter and fun as well. I love getting to know and experience the personalities of all of our diverse students.”