We Are APS: School Psychologist of the Year Dr. Patricia Earley

Schools across America are celebrating School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW). Held Nov. 11-15, the week showcases the important work of school psychologists like Dr. Patricia Earley – the 2019-2020 APS School Psychologist of the Year!

“It has been a true honor to receive the special recognition of APS 2019-2020 School Psychologist of the Year,” Dr. Earley said. “I have always strived to serve my students, parents, and school personnel well and this award suggests that perhaps I have succeeded in some measure. I sincerely hope that is the case.”

Dr. Earley has over 25 years of experience as an APS school psychologist and currently provides psychological services to M. Agnes Jones Elementary School, Burgess-Peterson Academy, KIPP STRIVE Primary School and Westside Atlanta Charter School.  Her professional interests include positive psychology, resiliency, and mindfulness. She also enjoys speaking with college students about different career paths in the field of psychology.

Dr. Earley was nominated by APS stakeholders, including several of her colleagues. School psychologists who were nominated were then required to provide background information about themselves and answer essay questions. Her responses were scored by members of the Metro-Atlanta Psychological Services Team, a group of leaders in the field of school psychology who serve local districts and universities.

When asked to describe her most rewarding experience as an APS school psychologist, Dr. Earley responded: “As a seasoned school psychologist, it is difficult for me to choose ‘the most’ rewarding experience as an Atlanta Public Schools’ school psychologist, as I have had many over the years. However, I can recall a conversation over 20 years ago with a parent of a general education student. After learning that I was a school psychologist, she reached out to me for help with her two high school aged sons. Although they were considered by their teachers as “bright,” they struggled with motivation and organizational skills. I recalled spending about 30 minutes talking with this mother and discussing her children’s likes, dislikes, interests, study/homework routines, etc. I remember that mother appearing relieved to hear that simple changes or tweaks in their routine could possibly make a difference in their school performance.

“I ran into this mother again about eight years later. At that time, she thanked me for “helping her and her boys” when they were facing challenges in high school. She went on to share that both of her sons had gone on to graduate from B.E. Mays High School and West Point Military Academy with honors. According to this mother, she felt heard and empowered by our initial meeting. She in turn, made changes in her parenting style which she believed helped to improve her sons’ high school experience. This exchange with that mother was particularly rewarding because it was a positive experience that had remained with her. What I considered a routine conversation with a parent had meant so much more to her. It reminded me to never underestimate how our initial interactions with parents can leave a lasting impression.”

School psychologists provide direct support and interventions to students; consult with teachers, families and other mental health professionals to improve support strategies; work with school administrators to improve school-wide practices and policies; and collaborate with community providers to coordinate needed services. They specialize in the evaluation and identification of students with disabilities. Their evaluations are utilized to aid school teams in making educational planning decisions, including eligibility for special education and 504 services, recommendations for accommodations and modifications to meet student’s unique learning and social-emotional needs, and eligibility for the gifted program.

Dr. Earley is an Atlanta native and was a high achieving member of the last graduating class of Southwest High School, currently known as Benjamin E. Mays High School. Fun fact: She also reigned as the last Miss Southwest High School!

We Are APS highlights APS visionaries (parents, students, teachers, principals, support staff, community members, partners, etc.), who exemplify our vision of a high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage, and the community trusts the system. To recommend an APS visionary for a We Are APS feature, contact your communications liaison or email apscommunicationsoffice@gmail.com.

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