The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has named Deborah M. Ward, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, as the 2002 School Psychologist of the Year. NASP established the award in 1990 to recognize individual school psychologists who have demonstrated exemplary dedication and effectiveness in improving the well being of children, families and schools, and in advancing the school psychology profession.
Ward has worked for the Anchorage School District since 1987 where she presently serves a grade 7-12 secondary program and an elementary program that includes special education preschoolers. "Deb Ward exemplifies innovative service to children and schools," notes NASP President Charlie Deupree. "She has an incredible ability to focus on people's strengths and help them solve problems by building on those strengths."
NASP promotes educationally and psychologically healthy environments for all children and youth by advancing proven, effective school-based mental health programs and services. School psychologists work with parents, educators, and others to improve outcomes for youngsters through counseling, assessment, prevention and intervention, effective teaching strategies, positive behavior supports, and skills development.
Ward is recognized for her commitment to involve families in efforts to help children achieve their best at home and school. "My belief in the strength and importance of families is central to my work," explains Ward. "I strive to promote the well-being of children through collaboration and creativity."
Ward has created family-school involvement days for the community, parent support groups for parents raising children with disabilities, parent education groups, and has implemented noontime and after school social skills programs for students. While working with the special education preschool population from 1987-1991, she piloted a new method for assessing preschool children for special education that is still utilized in the Anchorage district. Ward also provides workshops for her colleagues as well as for professionals in the community on topics as diverse as ADHD, parenting, behavioral intervention, crisis intervention, grief support, and non-violent play.
"Deb is able to improve outcomes for children in part because she provides education and training that helps adults adopt the most positive, effective approach to addressing important issues," commented Joan Bohmann, Chair of the NASP Awards Committee and fellow Alaskan school psychologist. "Her early work on grief counseling for children was instrumental in the ability of school staff, mental health professionals, and parents to respond to the tragic events of September 11."
Ward began her career in 1976 as a special education teacher prior to attending James Madison University in Virginia where she received her M.Ed. and Ed.S. in school psychology. She has won numerous grants to support innovative programs, including from the Alaska Department of Education, the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools program, and the Project SPRUCE program of the Alaska School Psychologists Association (ASPA). Ward was the ASPA 2001 School Psychologist of the Year.
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