The Grande Prairie Public School Division Education Foundation is implementing additional mental health, social and emotional training for teachers and school administrators. The training program will be used in all 18 schools in the division and was made possible by a $34,150 grant from the Community Foundation of Northwest Alberta.

GPPSD Director of Inclusive Learning Nancy Gorgichuk says the Education Foundation brought forward the need for more mental health supports in schools during the application process for the grant.

“The social-emotional learning, the ability to support our schools with the mental health of staff and students certainly rose to the surface to ask for support. It’s not something we could really have planned for, however, we’ve been on a journey to increase the capacity of our leaders in our schools, and of our teachers.”

The training process will be guided and facilitated by an expert in Calgary. Gorgichuk explains the plan is to work with teachers, administrators, and school leaders one step at a time.

“This plan and this support will impact every single one of our 18 schools. All administrators will be working with the consultant on their own capacity and by the end of it will have a plan that will be expected to be implemented at all of our schools,” she says.

Gorgichuk adds the ultimate goal is to improve student achievement, as well as to break down social and emotional barriers between students and educators.

Executive Director of the GPPSD Education Foundation Shaundra Siebert says she expects the program to be a boost in morale for both students and GPPSD staff.

“To have something and the funding to implement that support for the staff who support the students is probably a relief,” she explains.

She adds that, until now, some public division schools have not received the level or amount of mental health social-emotional training the division wants to standardize. The grant will allow the finalization of the training process across the division.

“One of the biggest priorities is to create an inclusive and comprehensive school environment where educators are supported and students feel they have access to adults who can provide them support with all the difficulties they might be experiencing,” says Siebert.

She adds roughly 8,000 students enrolled in the division and 1,000 staff members will directly benefit from the grant and training program.