Faculty attends Capelluto award mental health workshops


Kiara Royer, Staff Writer

Amrita Acharya (12) and Joanne Wang (12) led two Alexander Capelluto grant mental health workshops along with the Counseling and Guidance Department and the organization Hallways over the last two weeks.

The workshops provided a space for teachers and administrators to learn about and discuss topics of mental health and student well-being.

The school is a unique place in terms of stress, anxiety and expectations, science teacher Dr. Rachel Mohammed, who attended the first session, said. Navigating the world as a teenager at such a fast-paced academic atmosphere can be a lot for a student to handle, Mohammed said.

“During the workshops, the two Hallways representatives, Blessing Uchendu and Alison Finder, led different scenarios related to dealing with uncomfortable situations regarding mental health, racism, and socioeconomic status,” Acharya said.

The speakers showed the participants diagrams that teachers could use in order to identify how one would react to events, Middle Division history teacher Katharine Rudbeck, who attended the first session, said.

“Instead of tackling a single topic or issue, [the workshop facilitators] presented a framework for how to approach difficult issues in a systematic way,” Counseling and Guidance psychologist Dr. Ian Pervil said. “The rest of the workshop was spent considering ways to apply aspects of this theoretical framework to real-world situations, elaborated from a list of faculty-generated stressors in the community,” he said.

“Given my postion as one of the college counselors, I spend the majority of my time meeting individually with students, so any additional training or professional development that involves counseling will be at the top of my list to attend,” Director of College Counseling Initiatives Beth Pili said.

English Department Chair Vernon Wilson attended a session because he believes educators should be able to strategize and understand how to help students deal with issues related to stress and mental well-being, he said.

“Based on the workshops, the biggest thing I will try to build on more now is to allow students to make space for [mental health] discussions not only as a one day thing, but to try to make it a part of our classroom,” Wilson said.

The Hallways training provided useful tools to address mental health and wellness which I found to be very helpful in assisting students as they navigate the college process in a smooth and thoughtful manner, Pili said.

The workshops included practical techniques faculty could use to help students engage with the emotional complexity of their lives and gave faculty concrete pointers on how to address their concerns, Wilson said.

Every teacher unknowingly encounters students in moments of fragility and uncertainty, whether it’s emotional or psychological, Wilson said. The workshops opened the door for a better understanding of what students often deal with during the school day, he said.

Wang believes the workshops helped highlight the stigma around mental health that needs to be addressed in the school community, she said.

The strong turnout of teachers, along with the thoughtful Hallways facilitators and the hard work of Acharya and Wang, made the program worthwhile and highly applicable to life at the school, Pervil said.

Though the program was optional for faculty this year, Acharya hopes that it will be implemented into teacher-training in the coming years, she said.

“It’s just the beginning of Horace Mann’s commitment to mental health,” Wang said.