A group of paraeducators in Iowa have been selected for a new mental health training fellowship from the University of Iowa.

The fellowship from the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health at the University of Iowa is the first of its kind in the state. Its goal is to give paraeducators vital skills in mental health literacy, relationship-building, suicide screening, immediate crisis response and restorative practices. These will help create a culture of inclusion and wellness in their schools.

Qualifying school districts will receive $15,000 per eligible paraeducator for expenses like travel, lodging and substitutes to cover for the paraeducators. Each paraeducator will attend three in-person training sessions this fall and complete online courses to continue their education and fulfill licensure requirements.

“Paraeducators play such a vital role in our schools, so I’m thrilled we can empower them through this innovative new mental health fellowship,” said Kari Vogelgesang, University of Iowa College of Education clinical associate professor and director of professional development for the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health. “Paraeducators help nurture and support students. So, when they can develop skills that prepare them to empathetically broach mental health concerns and better understand how to respond to students struggling with trauma or crisis, the entire school community benefits.”  

Paraeducators from area school districts who will take part in the fellowship include:

Bettendorf Community School District, Bettendorf

  • Samantha Farra, Bettendorf Middle School
  • Deborah Oliveira, Neil Armstrong Elementary
  • Melissa Hart, Bettendorf Middle School
  • Kathleen Van Horn, Bettendorf Middle School

Clinton Community School District, Clinton

  • Monica Nielsen, Bluff Elementary 
  • Angie Richardson, Jefferson Elementary
  • Kellie Moore, Clinton Middle School
  • Rae Feddersen, Eagle Heights Elementary

Muscatine Community School District, Muscatine

  • Lori Shield, McKinley Elementary
  • Jasmine Mills, Franklin Elementary
  • Susan Melton, McKinley Elementary
  • Bre Harrington, Grant Elementary

North Scott Community School District, Eldridge

  • Luci Maxwell, North Scott High School
  • Denise Frauen, North Scott High School
  • Karen Cartsen, Edward White Elementary School
  • Amanda Ohsann, Edward White Elementary School

“I am eager to attend the upcoming mental health training being offered to paraeducators,” said Rae Feddersen, a paraeducator with the Clinton Community School District. “Adding even more tools to my ever-expanding toolbox will help me achieve our district’s goal, to ‘Do What’s Best for Kids.’”  

For more information on the training, including other school districts taking part, click here. For more information on the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health, click here.