Berthoud High interventionist takes pro-active approach to problem solving

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

A lot goes into learning. Getting the most out of an education requires more than simply learning the fundamentals of the arts and sciences. It is also important students be at their best from a mental health perspective. More and more schools today are coming to understand this reality and increasing the number of personnel and resources used to achieve these ends.

Katlyn Wood

Beginning at the start of the current school year, Berthoud High School (BHS) –as well as many others throughout the Thompson School District – is employing an individual whose sole focus is the mental health and well-being of the student body. Katlyn Wood, a licensed social worker who holds a master’s degree from the University of Denver, fills this role at BHS.

Wood explained that while no one day at her job is the same and her role is constantly evolving, the overarching focus is to put young people who may be struggling in the best possible position to get the most from their educational opportunities. Yet, as Wood outlined, she devotes a great deal of time working to be pro-active, trying to nip problems in the bud before they reach the level of disruption.

Wood, who graduated from BHS in 2013, finished her undergraduate work at Nebraska-Wesleyan in 2013 before returning to Colorado and the University of Denver for graduate work, said it was an elective class in social work that changed her life and set her on the path she presently traverses. It was a love of preventing and solving problems, in addition to fondness for working with young people, which brought her home to Berthoud.

“Kids are experiencing so much and learning so much constantly … being in a school you have the opportunity to have a positive impact without a crisis happening,” Wood said. “If you’re in the school you can build those positive relationships with those students. You can develop those coping skills and have that positive impact before something (negative) happens.”

Wood was initially hired by former BHS principal, Richard Harris, but has worked closely with current principal, Sarah Beth Bliss, to develop and expand her role at the school, which this spring includes teaching a social- and emotional-education class at the school. Working with a co-teacher, as she herself is not a licensed educator, Wood’s class focuses on “teaching self-efficacy, self-advocacy, teaches coping skills and how do we intervene before we make poor choices, and be reactive to certain situations.”

Wood further explained her ever-evolving role at school will continue to emphasize preventative measures that can be taken. “The proactive part is only going to keep growing,” she said, and outlined that the school has plans in place for future classes and increased parental involvement to continue to support the mental well-being of the student body. She meets with some students on a weekly basis, others each morning, and partners with a therapist from Summit Stone on workshops that focus on helping the students “work on building healthy boundaries and developing healthy relationships.”

As a Berthoud native and alumni of the school, Wood said she believes deep and long-standing connection to the community is of great benefit in her role. She explained, “This community is so unique, it’s unlike anything else. It’s also a great conversation starter, because we have something in common,”

While Wood is the point person at the school for the mental and emotional well-being of the students, she was quick to point out it is something of which the entire faculty is a part. “The skills that we, as a mental-health team, are teaching these kids are just mental-health skills; they’re life skills that are going to be really valuable, Wood explained, as she stressed the importance of her belief the goal is to set young people on the right path toward a successful life. “I think as humans it’s kind of hard to admit you need help, so that is something we, as a staff throughout the whole building, are trying to instill in our kids is its okay to fail, it’s okay to fall down, because this is a safe place and, as a staff, we’re your support system and we’re going to catch you.”

As Wood said, “My hope is that we’re setting these kids up to be successful and make a difference.”

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