School Support Staff: Who They Are & Their Importance In Schools

When we think of “school staff,” we primarily think of teachers. While it’s true that teachers are the stars of the show in our educational system, as with any production, there are dozens of support staff who work to ensure that children are healthy and happy enough to learn.

These support staff, including school counselors, school nurses, and school psychologists, can make the difference between success and failure for students facing challenges. This makes them vital to our schools – and often underappreciated.

In this article, we’ll discuss the ways in which school counselors, school nurses, and school psychologists can benefit your student population – and how Sunbelt can help you find the right school support staff for you.

Who Are Support Staff in Schools?

School support staff are any staff who “support” teachers in their mission of education. They may include custodians and janitorial staff, but also many important staff members who care for students and help them learn.

School staff who make sure that students are physically and emotionally healthy enough to learn include:

  • School counselors – School counselors help give students the skills and tools they need to succeed. Instead of focusing on academic knowledge, school counselors teach children emotional skills and work skills to help them meet their goals even in troubled times.
  • School nurses – Students can’t learn well if they’re sick, and school nurses are there to make sure students stay healthy. Their jobs might include ensuring that students get the medication they need throughout the school day, and identifying and containing any contagious illnesses that might appear within a school.
  • School psychologists – School psychologists provide treatment for behavioral problems and trauma, right on-site at the school. These experts can help alleviate the burdens of less-than-ideal home conditions, bullying, and more to produce lifelong improvements in students’ educational outcomes.

Importance of Support Staff in Schools

Any impressive production requires lots of team members to make it work. Whether it’s the unseen makeup, costuming, and set staff behind a Shakespearian play or the unseen staff who care for students outside of the classroom, many different types of expertise are needed to create impressive results.

In the case of schools, we think of schools primarily as places of learning. That’s quite true – but teachers often don’t have the necessary time or tools to care for students’ mental, emotional, and physical well-being so that they can have optimal learning success.

That’s where school support staff come in. Studies show that out-of-school factors like difficulties at home, trauma, and medical and behavioral conditions can seriously impair students’ ability to learn. Even highly intelligent students can fail classes when they’re suffering from anxiety, depression, or under treated illness.

So any educational facility wishing to boost its success must ensure that it can address these needs that arise outside the classroom, to ensure its students’ success. Students who are adequately treated for medical, mental health, and socioemotional distress show better grades, better behavior, and better overall school outcomes.

The Importance of School Counselors

School counselors help students learn in many ways. By listening to students’ frustrations and concerns, they ensure that students have a supportive presence, and identify situations in students’ lives that may require intervention to improve.

Once frustrations such as problems at home, relationship problems with other students, and learning difficulties have been identified, school counselors can work with students to develop goals, plans, and the skills needed to reach those goals.

School counselors may also help students to fill out applications for colleges, jobs, and scholarships; meet with parents and teachers to help improve parent/teacher relationships; and organize classes and activities to teach about healthy relationships for the whole student body.

School counselors may refer students to school nurses or school psychologists if it becomes clear that medical or psychological treatment is needed to help a student do their best in school.

The Importance of School Nurses and LPNs

Many of us think of school nurses as the person students are sent to when they’re sick. But in reality, school nurses play an invaluable role in making sure all students stay healthy. Organizations like the National Association of School Nurses are constantly creating new tools and strategies to help school nurses help students stay healthy and achieve good grades.

Because students may not have access to medical care at home, school nurses play an important role in determining if students have medical conditions that may be holding them back.

School nurses can screen for poor eyesight, musculoskeletal problems, and obesity. If these challenges are discovered, school nurses can work with families to create a plan to get students the care they need to ensure that they are able to read course materials, and are healthy enough to pay attention and learn in school.

School nurses can also run flu shot and other vaccine clinics to ensure the student population stays healthy. School nurses may be the first line of defense when it comes to diagnosing and containing the spread of infectious disease in schools.

For students who have known chronic illnesses or dangerous medical conditions, school nurses may be in charge of ensuring that students take their medication during the day, and keeping lifesaving supplies and skills on hand in case of an emergency.

School nurses can teach certain essential skills, such as CPR and first aid, to other members of the school staff. They may be placed in charge of ensuring that other school staff members’ lifesaving skills and certifications, such as CPR certifications, remain current and valid.

The Importance of School Psychologists

School psychologists are counselors who are specially trained to treat trauma, mental illnesses, behavioral problems, and more. By listening to students who are facing these challenges and working with them to create goals and action plans, school psychologists can create lifelong improvements in students’ academic achievement and well-being.

School psychologists may have advanced knowledge in areas such as:

  • Clinical data. Which approaches have been tested and proven to be the absolute best ways to improve students’ performance and well-being?
  • What are the right questions to ask to determine what is causing a students’ behavioral problems, or academic challenges?
  • What is the best way to help students with different challenges and problems? What methods are shown by clinical science to get the best results?
  • What are the best ways to teach students lifelong skills that will help them to focus, learn, achieve, and get along with others for the rest of their careers?
  • School psychologists may be the best choice to step in when a school counselor finds that a student needs specialized help with a life challenge, mental illness, or behavioral disorder. They can also work with school nurses to help students obtain the psychiatric medication they may need.

School psychologists may also be employed by summer camps, tutoring programs, and other settings charged with helping students learn and get along.

Managing Support Staff in Schools

School administrators have a lot on their minds. The idea of adding or managing more staff can seem overwhelming when you’re already overseeing a large body of teachers, parents, and custodial staff.

But adding support staff to your schools can help your students to achieve more, and reduce behavioral and medical problems that lead to lower test scores. Students with access to both medical and psychological care through school are optimally positioned for success.

A healthy school ecosystem is one where teachers have resources, such as counselors or nurses, that they can lean on when students are showing behavioral, relationship, or medical problems that are interfering with their learning.

These professionals can even help to reduce administrative burden by supplying more skills and more staff time that can be used to address student performance problems, parent-teacher tensions, medical liabilities, and other concerns before they ever reach the principal’s office.

If you’re concerned about the process of finding and hiring new school support staff, Sunbelt can help. With over thirty years of experience in finding and hiring candidates for schools and medical facilities, we have expertise in choosing the right candidates for the right positions.

We’ll ask specific questions related to your educational facility (Is it a public or private school? Urban or rural? How big is your student population?) and match you to the best school counselors, nurses, and psychologists for your student population.

To get started  finding the best support staff for your school, you can contact us via email, or give us a call at 800.659.1522.

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