Latin School of Chicago

Latin Magazine Fall 2014: Wellness Matters

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 59

26 L AT I N M A G A Z I N E e priority articulated by Latin's 2013-18 strategic plan to ensure that all students have the support they need has already helped them move toward their goal. is fall, the upper school hired an additional full-time learning specialist and a part-time counselor, allowing for more face time with students. Furthermore, facilities updates were made over the summer to bring the upper school counseling and learning resources offices together. Upper school counselor Jenny Stevens' dream is one day to build a wellness center where students can go for support but also have a space where there are no screens or electronics and meditation and mindfulness are practiced. Providing the Tools Lower school learning specialist Marilyn Freund, who brought learning resources to Latin in 1976, is pleased to see the school's commitment to student support. Freund remembered a recent meeting with Elizabeth Denevi, Latin's director of studies and professional development, where Denevi told staff that she sees learning resources as essential to the school's mission to be an inclusive and supportive community for a diverse population of students. "She said that what is good for learning resources students ultimately is good for every student at Latin," said Freund. "at's significant." When she came to Latin more than 30 years ago, the climate was very different. Freund initially was hired to provide support for middle school students who were struggling academically, but soon she realized that many of her students had undiagnosed learning challenges and would have benefited greatly from earlier intervention. After convincing the administration of a need, she began her work in the lower school. Today, in the lower school, in addition to Freund, two full-time and one part-time learning specialist as well as a reading specialist provide assessments, consultations, referrals and remediation. "Latin is unique in that we are able to provide individualized instruction," said learning specialist Lara Frohlich. "e work we do is relationship-based, and we see so much progress because of the early intervention." Learning specialists build a close rapport with their students, most of whom remain with the same specialist the entire time they are in the lower school program. In the middle school, learning specialists Julie Badynee, who started this fall after Donovan's retirement, and Amanda Taglia (on leave in 2014-15) focus on helping students to develop skills they will need to become independent learners. Taglia, who joined the middle school in 2011, also works with the entire fifth grade. She teaches executive functioning skills (organization, planning, preparing for tests, etc.), conducts reading assessments and data analysis, and provides reading intervention to fifth graders. Badynee primarily supports students in the seventh and eighth grades as they prepare for high school. Both share teaching tools and strategies with teachers and administrators. eir work informs the approach that learning specialists Jen Hayman and Stephen Wright take in the upper school with individual students as they face new academic challenges each year. "I work with what I have in front of me," said Hayman. "Is it a ninth grader who presents as a seventh grader because of organization issues? Is it a tenth grader who is going into standardized testing? Is it a senior who we want to make sure is ready for college? ere are some significant transitions that students face at each level." Ultimately, the program's goal is to prepare upper school students for what lies ahead. "We really focus on the self advocacy and independence piece," said Hayman. "When they leave this school, we want them to know who they are as a learner so that they can capitalize on what they learned at Latin." e reward for learning resources professionals comes in seeing students flourish without them. "You work so hard over many years with each individual student, and then you send them on their way and you get to watch them become successful, independent learners," said Taglia. "at is what makes what we do worth it." Creating a Space To Latin's counseling staff, the school's strategic focus on student support is especially timely for a generation of students who are facing an increasingly complex world. More children than ever before are being diagnosed with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Students have less family and down time, and their relationship to technology provides increasing opportunities for them to isolate themselves. Counselors help students cope by providing a safe and confidential environment for them to share and process feelings. ey make assessments and provide referrals for therapeutic intervention, work with students who have diagnosed mental health issues, and partner with learning resources, the nurses, deans, advisors, teachers and administrators to support individuals in crisis. In the younger grades and in the middle school, they work closely with parents. "e teachers focus on understanding how students learn and working with that. Ms. Donovan always knew exactly the one thing that would spark something in my brain so that I could figure out an issue I was having with my work." — Eli Bucksbaum '18

Articles in this issue

view archives of Latin School of Chicago - Latin Magazine Fall 2014: Wellness Matters