Ellen Wiesenthal Teacher Initiative

The Ellen Wiesenthal Teacher Initiative at the Child Mind Institute is provided by generous support from Linnea and George Roberts, Robert Wiesenthal, and Jane and Jay Cohen

The Need

U.S. children spend more than 30 hours in school each week, and schools are where kids with psychiatric and learning disorders face some of their greatest challenges. However, less than 10% of the 80,000 public schools in the U.S. offer comprehensive mental health services for children and their families, and the national average ratio of school psychologists to students is one to 1,653.

The responsibility of addressing child mental health defaults to teachers, though many feel inadequately educated on the topics of child mental health and how to manage problem behaviors in their classrooms. The result is that instructional time declines while teachers handle disruptions in the classroom, depriving children of important learning experiences and exhausting teachers.

Effectively addressing child mental health in the classroom is essential to promote productive teaching and learning. By helping educators get better mental health care training:

  • Teachers can intervene earlier, at the source, and coach students through interpersonal and classroom challenges in a more robust and informed manner
  • Kids can get more effective help, clearing the way for them to learn and prosper

Ultimately, better-equipped teachers will lead to earlier interventions for children, ensuring their long-term success.

Ellen Wiesenthal Teacher Initiative Overview

Named in honor of a former kindergarten teacher who uniquely understands the importance of equipping our frontline educators with tools to help all children reach their full potential, the Ellen Wiesenthal Teacher Initiative will expand and diversify CMI’s efforts to improve the effectiveness of teachers in classroom management, specifically in reducing disruptive behaviors and promoting positive behavior. Through the Initiative, CMI seeks to:

  • Expand our partnership within charter school communities to develop a School-Based Mental Health Safety Net.
  • Create a menu of evidence-based interventions drawing from existing models that promote positive classroom behavior and provide teachers with mental health education.
  • Produce a model toolkit for Head Start staff and educators.
  • Expand school-based interventions to community-based settings.

Ultimately, our goal through the Initiative is to pilot, manualize and scale our unique, evidenced-based teacher training initiatives, reaching teachers and students across the country and ensuring a national impact.

Comprehensive School-Based Mental Health Safety Net

  • Train teachers on evidence-based techniques to manage behaviors in the classroom, identify disorders, and intervene appropriately. Through CMI’s didactic presentations and cutting-edge training sessions (to include role-playing and classroom coaching), teachers will master a specific set of skills to improve interaction with children and empower children to control their behavior and succeed in the classroom.
  • Provide ongoing clinical consultation to school personnel in the form of regularly occurring case conference discussions and classroom coaching to reinforce the strategies presented in training.
  • Coordinate public education efforts about child mental health for parents and wider school communities, particularly about early identification of risk factors, and parent strategies for effectively identifying and managing psychiatric and learning disorders.
  • Develop a network of local mental health clinics surrounding targeted communities, using CMI’s clinical expertise to identify local, qualified agencies that can help teachers on a long-term basis support students whose symptoms rise to a level beyond the expertise of the school personnel.