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Counseling and Guidance hires new learning specialist, increases student outreach

Lynne Sipprelle, Staff Writer

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This year, Dr. Ian Pervil will take over psychologist Dr. Liz Westphal’s position as learning issues specialist in the Office of Counseling and Guidance, continuing the school’s focus on awareness of learning differences.

The Office of Counseling and Guidance is excited for Dr. Pervil to join the school and is particularly impressed by his background, Director of Counseling and Guidance Dr. Daniel Rothstein said.

Pervil worked as Chair of the English Department at York Prep before earning his psychology degree and returning to York as a psychologist, Rothstein said.

“I realized I love working with and listening to people as much as both teaching and studying literature,” Pervil said. “Being a psychologist lets me think deeply about the mind and behavior, and it allows me to aid and help students in a variety of ways.”

Since Dr. Aoife West left the school at the end of last year, Westphal is moving into West’s full-time psychologist position. Pervil will continue Westphal’s work in educating faculty and students on learning issues, advocating for students with learning differences, and assisting the students themselves.

“People think and learn in different ways,” Pervil said. “Some may be better suited to particular learning environments than others. I am interested in helping individuals find and create spaces where they can maximize their potential.”

“I think it’s a really great move by the school to hire a new psychologist,” Ashna Jain (11) said. “Sometimes I think kids need to see a new face, someone that doesn’t really know anything about them as individuals.”

Rothstein’s advice to Pervil is to spend time getting to know the students, Rothstein said.

“It’s extremely important for me to listen carefully to the needs and concerns of students, so that I can incorporate their feedback into making my ideas stronger, more personal and more well-reasoned,” Pervil said.

One of Westphal’s initiatives last year was spearheading the formation of the Student Learning Ability Mentorship (SLAM) organization, Rothstein said. Pervil will continue Westphal’s work with SLAM this year.

The newly founded SLAM Club will be working to de-stigmatize learning disabilities by holding meetings with school psychologists and teachers. The club will also pair students with learning disabilities or differences with SLAM club mentors, Junior Leader of SLAM Karen Jang (11) said.

“I think that hiring a psychologist who will specialize in learning disabilities and differences is a big step forward in SLAM’s mission,” Jang said.

Hiring Pervil makes sense for the school; especially in light of a speech Jessie Millman ’17 gave last year on learning disparities within the student community, Richard He (11) said.

“It’s really great to see the school invest further into providing everyone with resources to take full advantage of all the opportunities an HM education provides,” He said.

Over the years there has been a positive trend within the school towards more awareness of learning issues, Rothstein said.

When Rothstein first began working at the school as a part-time psychologist in 2000, there was sometimes a feeling on the faculty’s part that compensations for learning issues such as extra time or a laptop might give students an unfair advantage, Rothstein said.

There is now a much broader and more sophisticated understanding of learning disabilities among faculty, Rothstein said.

When history teacher Barry Bienstock began teaching at the school in the 1980s, no attention was given to learning issues, Bienstock said. “It was only during Dr. Kelly’s tenure as head of school that greater clarity and attention was directed at asking how students learn and trying to offer help to students with learning disabilities.”

“Most of us on the faculty are much more concerned about grappling with this issue,” Bienstock said. “More and more time is spent outside the classroom reviewing material or writing assignments with students.”

There’s been a big cultural shift as people have learned about learning differences and students have come forward to explain, English teacher Rebecca Bahr said.

Zoe Mavrides (12) is doing an Independent Study this year on educational policy around special education and learning issues. “This Independent Study is really personal for me because I’ve been through the process of getting extra time,” Mavrides said.

The Office of Counseling and Guidance does a good job of helping students who need accommodations, Mavrides said. “They really do talk to your teachers to see what is the best fit for you.”

The Department of Counseling and Guidance will continue its outreach efforts this year by visiting HMO, Health, and the new 11th Grade HMICE class, Rothstein said.

In these classes, the guidance counselors will explain what happens when a student comes to their office, discuss confidentiality, and talk honestly about student attitudes towards counseling, Rothstein said.

“We want to continue to be more present in the school community,” Rothstein said. “Our goal is for all students to feel comfortable coming in to talk should the need arise.


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Counseling and Guidance hires new learning specialist, increases student outreach