Karyn Watson will assist families and work directly with K-6 students to address social and emotional well-being
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Karyn Watson joined the Greater Johnstown School District this past fall as a school social worker, in a year when her work takes on a whole new meaning and her services are needed more than ever.
Watson is primarily assigned to Pleasant Avenue Elementary (grades K-2) and Warren Street Elementary (grades 3-6), but expects there to be overlap with students of all ages as she assists families in the district.
She works with children who exhibit social and emotional challenges, and in the year 2020, Watson said COVID-19 has definitely brought out a lot of different emotions and behaviors in children, as they try to acclimate to a “new normal.”
“COVID has affected just about everything. Some kids are anxious or worried – some kids are struggling with learning remotely – and some kids are finding it hard to socialize and make friends,” she said. “Socialization is difficult when you have to wear masks and respect social distance, without the benefit of being able to read someone’s facial expressions or the physicality of a simple hug, high five or handshake,” she added.
“Over the past year, we have seen a growing need for this position as an added resource for our special education students, as well as our general population of students, who are learning to cope with the disruptions of COVID-19,” Superintendent of Schools, Dr. William Crankshaw said. “Besides the obvious benefits to our students, the addition of this position also provides the district with the opportunity to be reimbursed for the costs of counseling services rendered for students who are Medicaid eligible,” he added.
In addition to COVID-specific issues that have arisen over the past year, Watson also helps students who may be dealing with stressful relationship dynamics by helping them understand their feelings, identify appropriate ways to express their feelings and sharing tips on how to better handle stress, no matter what the source.
She describes her work as a mix of supporting both the student and their parents. “I’m there for the parents as much as I am for their children,” Watson said. “I want them to know they have an ally here, a partner to help them navigate their child’s well being and if they need it, an outlet just to vent,” she added.
Watson noted that some families are used to hearing from the school when there is a behavioral or academic issue with their child. “Parents have stress coming at them from all angles, so it’s not uncommon for them to struggle giving these kinds of conversations their full attention,” she explained. “My goal is to make sure families feel supported, that they are aware of resources available to them in the school and community and help them come up with a plan to help their child succeed.”
Besides building relationships with GJSD families, Watson also noted the importance of having strong working relationships with teachers and administrators in the district. “I work very closely with my district colleagues,” she said. “Their input helps me better understand students’ needs and allows me to provide a more focused approach for kids who rely on these services.”
“We are so thankful to have added Karyn to our team this year,” Warren Street Principal Bob Kraemer said. “We knew it would be a challenging year, that would require all hands on deck – and having her here as a resource for our kids and families has been a real asset to our district,” he added. “Providing an education requires us to look beyond grades, tests and curriculum and Karyn’s work helps us focus on life outside of the classroom, which is a really important piece to the puzzle.”