Four years ago Teachers21, Inc., a 30-year old organization that offers customized professional development for academic leaders, began renting space on the campus of William James College where it also drew upon the school’s experienced faculty to spearhead various programs.
Last year, an opportunity arose and the two entities joined forces.
Nicholas A. Covino, Psy.D., president of William James College, explained that Teachers21 has been offering “sophisticated consulting work with schools” and has developed a robust relationship with school superintendents and principals across the Commonwealth.
With the growing interest in social emotional learning in the last couple of years, the programming Teachers21 offers has taken on greater importance, he noted.
Jennifer Antonucci, M.Ed., associate director of Teachers21, indicated that educators of every ilk are concerned with the challenges around mental and behavioral health of students, but most are not trained for the issues they face.
Teachers21 works with K-12 educators and stakeholders in their professional development through graduate level course work, online education, face-to-face learning, consulting, in-service workshops, one-on-one coaching and team development.
Antonucci said, “The content includes pedagogy, leadership training, and addresses school culture and climate.”
Teachers21 also runs institutes for new academic leaders and offers degree and certificate programs. These one-year institutes enable teachers to learn from others in the profession through roundtable discussions focused on priority issues that reflect authentic problems schools are facing.
Antonucci explained that Teachers21 partners with a school district and conducts a needs assessment before assigning a trainer to the school.
Each program is specifically tailored to the school. “There is no off-the-shelf curriculum,” she said. Rather, the program evaluates the unique goals and challenges and adjusts its plan accordingly.
Additionally, Teachers21 helps school districts understand and comply with state mandates and academic requirements.
William James’ role in this partnership is to provide faculty from its School Psychology and Organizational and Leadership Psychology Departments, who will lend their expertise in behavioral health training to teachers, principals, and superintendents.
Covino pointed out that the partnership gives Teachers21 a chance to offer educational leadership, social emotional learning and create healthy environments.
The acquisition gives William James an opportunity to do more primary preventive mental health work, get more involved in school programming and create more socially responsible school settings.
Although Teachers21 comprises a number of retired or active educators, William James has clinical professionals who are “the boots on the ground,” said Covino.
“William James is not training mental health professionals but training teachers and developing resources around mental health. It’s a marriage made in heaven,” said Covino.
He said that 20 percent of students today have mental health problems with an “incredible shortage of psychologists” to treat them. “We’re intervening at an upstream level.”
By working together, Teachers21 and William James can address the psychosocial needs of every student and help build greater capacity. And Covino emphasized that rather than offer a series of after-school development programs, which often have little impact, Teachers21 has the capability of “being a resource and an advocate for social emotional learning and behavioral health.”
He said, “Other programs train and then leave. We’ll continue to support through occasional additional training, distance education or consulting.”
While the Teachers21 programs offer academic credit, they also carry a more important perk, according to Covino. “The reward is professional development and a boost in pay.”
The goal of Teachers21 is to “build a psychologically safe, highly accountable place of work,” according to Antonucci.
Covino added that this approach will be a primary intervention that creates a healthier environment, ameliorates and assists children and families in the early development stages of psychological problems.
By Phyllis Hanlon