Photo by Becca Sabot
Patrick Andruss and Ashley Ross
“Kids are coming to school with a lot more baggage,” says Ashley Ross, special education teacher at Prairie View Elementary. Patrick Andrus, fourth-grade teacher at Prairie View, agrees. “It’s very different than when I started 23 years ago.” Yet, as a state, Minnesota ranks 48th in number of guidance counselors.
Across the Twin Cities, therapists from Washburn Center for Children are embedded in 22 schools, providing therapy and assisting teachers and staff. At Prairie View, for instance, a Washburn Center therapist provides therapy sessions to students and parents, checks in with teachers about students, intervenes in crisis, and provides context from outside the classroom.
Says Ross, “The therapist connects school and home when situations are difficult. She knows when students are feeling anxious or proud. When I don’t know what to do, she comes with another lens, another perspective, and brings what happens in our classroom into sessions.”
This therapist-teacher-family trifecta provides a uniquely safe and convenient space for children with emotional and behavioral issues to grow and learn.
And the teachers grow and learn from it too. “Through my experience with Washburn, I now look at the specific students differently, and I look at all students differently,” Andrus says. “There is this huge emotional piece happening with kids. I can’t always teach kids academics if they are struggling with emotional stuff.
“With what I’ve learned from Washburn therapists, I’ve become more patient and more accepting of differences. I am a better teacher.”