Milford school psychologist wins Department for Education award

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A school psychologist from the Milford School District is the first recipient of the Delaware Behavioral Health Professional of the Year award.

Rosa DiPiazza of Mispillion Elementary School said she approaches all of her relationships — with students, families, community members and colleagues — with genuine curiosity and interest.

“I want to understand the experiences, feelings and perspectives of the people I work with. I want to facilitate safe meeting spaces for people to share their stories. When we understand the why of other people’s actions, we are often more empathetic towards situations that might otherwise have irritated us,” said DiPiazza, a Lewes resident. “When we are more empathetic, we are better able to work together to solve problems. People want to feel heard, validated and respected, even the little ones.

Education Secretary Mark Holodick made the surprise announcement May 26 during a school-wide staff meeting at Mispillion Elementary.

“Rosa is a great representative of the critical work that behavioral health professionals do every day in schools across our state,” Holodick said. “Mental health is health. Our students need to be healthy to learn, and I’m proud of the work Rosa and BHP Delaware do for the well-being and growth of our students, families, and communities.

DiPiazza said she is known at her school for her ability to build relationships with all families, including those who don’t yet have strong ties with school staff.

“I think it’s because I’m able to interact with them openly and without judgment. I work hard to understand other people’s backgrounds and situations, and I have no problem seeking out cultural brokers to facilitate this. understanding,” she said. “I don’t expect people to respect me just because of my position. I earn the respect of adults and students by being honest, professional, and staying focused on solving the problems at hand. When interacting with students, I prioritize presenting myself as a safe person who is there to help them with whatever they need. I’m nice, I keep my promises and I build trust.

DiPiazza has led her school’s trauma-informed classrooms goal team for the past three years. The team provides trauma education and support for implementing practices at the building and classroom levels to help reduce the negative impacts of trauma on students.

“These initiatives provided the education and tools needed to help staff and students become more mindful and understanding in their interactions,” she said. “When we are able to self-regulate and see behavior not as a reflection of who a child is but as an indicator of what has happened to them, we are better able to show compassion towards each other, which in turn builds a stronger school community.”

Milford’s director of student services, Laura Manges, recommended DiPiazza for the honor, saying she is a highly skilled school psychologist and a well-respected colleague.

“She willingly offers in-class supports to teaching staff to ensure fidelity in the implementation of behavioral interventions and constantly monitors the progress of interventions,” Manges said. “She has worked diligently to support at-risk students with mental health needs by providing mentorship to teaching and counseling staff. Rosa works closely with families to create trusting relationships designed to help them help their students develop better emotional regulation skills.

The Behavioral Health Professionals program is designed to recognize the outstanding service of school employees who are health professionals or social service providers who provide services for the purpose of improving the mental health of a individual. These employees include school counsellors, school social workers, licensed clinical social workers, school psychologists, licensed professional mental health counselors and school nurses. This is a new award recently created by state legislation and coordinated by the Delaware Department of Education.

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