Arkansas Strong is honored to be able to amplify the good work of one of our education partners, Teach Plus Arkansas. Fellows in this program just this week released a new brief in which they address mental health needs of students, and offer practical recommendations on how to address those needs.

In New Brief, Teach Plus Arkansas Policy Fellows Address Mental Health Needs of Students

Teachers’ recommendations focus on providing mental health services for students and relevant professional development for educators

The need to support students socially and emotionally, as well as cognitively, has become evident as the result of the COVID pandemic. Lack of such support leaves students unprepared for school and life and contributes to the higher burnout rates of teachers. In their new brief, Strategically Addressing Student Mental Health in Our Schools: Recommendations from Teach Plus Arkansas Policy Fellows, Teach Plus teacher leaders set forth a series of recommendations for state leaders on closing the gaps of social, emotional, and mental health education and support in the state.

“Investing in mental health services for students and ensuring that teachers have the training and the time to thoughtfully implement SEL is good for teachers, directly benefits students, and can help alleviate Arkansas’s critical teacher shortage by ensuring that more teachers remain in our classrooms,” said Teach Plus Arkansas Executive Director Stacey McAdoo. “With these solutions from Teach Plus teacher leaders, we can improve conditions in our public schools to make certain that we are educating the whole child and alleviating barriers so that more teachers want and can remain in our classrooms.”

“Our students cannot learn if they are in fight or flight mode. If we expect teachers to help students learn, we must give educators the tools to help students be in the right mindset in the first place,” said Perla Andrade, a teacher in Little Rock and one of the authors of the brief.

To better understand Arkansas teachers’ experience with SEL, Teach Plus teacher leaders surveyed 247 Arkansas teachers about how their schools are supporting students’ social and emotional needs. They found that schools and educators are committed to their students’ social-emotional learning. Educators try their best to embed some form of SEL strategies into the daily academic day, but they need support in the form of professional development focused on mental health, trauma-informed instruction and the social-emotional learning of students. They also need to have protected time in their day to implement SEL.

Teach Plus teacher leaders’ recommendations are:

  1. Create school-specific mental health services, such as a coordinator/student success coach, in order to provide in-school support for students and professional development for teachers.
  2. Protect teacher time to have SEL lessons and conversations with students and participate in relevant training.
  3. Engage teachers in relevant training, such as Mental Health First Aid training, on how to authentically serve the SEL needs of students.

“The only way we can truly provide an equitable educational experience to our students is to understand the whole child and provide resources to take care of their social, emotional, and mental health needs,” said Christhian Saavedra, Student Success Coach in Rogers and one of the authors of the brief.

About Teach Plus

The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all.