Ready to support students

As a school psychologist, Yajaira Espinosa ’16 ’19 ’21 often finds herself explaining her job.

“I definitely think that people need to be more aware of school psychology because not a lot of people know about it. How I describe it is: We work with everybody in the school building – students, teachers, administrators – and with students’ families,” she explains. “We try to advocate for the students to have the best education they can get, and we’re there to support them.”

Espinosa currently works as a bilingual (Spanish and English) school psychologist at a Milwaukee Public Schools serving grades K-8. She is part of the first cohort to complete Alverno’s School Psychology program, through which students earn a Master of Science in Educational Psychology and then complete the more advanced Educational Specialist degree.

“It was the perfect program for a working adult,” says Espinosa of the program, which meets every other weekend.

Espinosa was pleased to return to Alverno, where she completed her bachelor’s degree, in psychology, in 2016.

“In both my undergraduate and graduate classes, I really enjoyed the small class sizes and the individualized approach to teaching each student. It’s hands-on, and you learn how to work with people and collaborate,” she says. “You learn all the skills that you need to be successful.”

She began her work as a bilingual (English-Spanish) school psychologist in the 2020-21 school year, which was memorable for many reasons.

“Being virtual was a major learning experience. I had to be flexible and very creative to connect with students,” she says. “I enjoy working as a team with the teachers, and staff to do the best that we can for the kids.”

Not only does the pandemic make her work more challenging, but it also amplifies the need for school psychologists.

“This pandemic has really brought to light how crucial mental health is for students. We’ve had an increase of mental health needs. Students across the district are experiencing depression and increased anxiety. Our field prepares us to step in and work with those students and help them cope with these challenges,” she says.

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