Teaching the future teachers an emerging part of the job: mental health management

By Devyn Hopkins


While training the next generation of educators, University of Findlay professors from the College of Education are helping their students prepare for the mental health issues they’ll see in their future classrooms.

Mentalhealth.gov says educators are often the first to notice mental health problems.

Missy Recker, an Assistant Professor and Team Leader for Primary Education at the University of Findlay, says it’s a serious and unavoidable issue.

“I feel as though mental health issues are on the rise across many ages,” Recker said. “Our pre-service candidates need to be prepared to handle various mental health issues with their students.”

Carrie Wysocki, Assistant Professor in Education and Team Leader of Special Education, says she teaches about students with disabilities, and mental health is part of that conversation.

“I present how critical Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is in ALL grade levels,” Wysocki said. “In 2019, the state of Ohio implemented SEL learning standards, and I make them available to all of my students.”

According to education.ohio.gov there are five competencies in the Framework for Systemic Social and Emotional Learning used by Ohio. These are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

Childrens.com reported a 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey of more than 7,000 teens found four in 10 felt “persistently sad or hopeless,” while one in five had contemplated suicide. Mentalhealth.gov offers tips to support the mental health of all students in the classroom.

  • Educate staff, parents, and students on symptomsof and help for mental health problems.
  • Promote social and emotional competency and build resilience.
  • Help ensure a positive, safe school environment.
  • Teach and reinforce positive behaviors and decision-making.
  • Encourage helping others.
  • Encourage good physical health.
  • Help ensure access to school-based mental health supports.

There are a number of disorders teachers can look for, according to mentalhealth.gov, such as anxiety, behavioral, and mood disorders.

Professors themselves are still trying to learn the best way to guide their students through their mental health issues. They are also relating some of their coping strategies to help teach their students ways to deal with their students’ mental health.

Kerry Teeple, an assistant professor at the University of Findlay, says her own students have opened up to her about mental health issues.

“I would say I have about one student per week who needs to ‘unload’ about their mental health struggles,” Teeple said. “Just this week, I’ve had three students who have expressed anxiety about their future, school, social life, or personal habits.”

Teeple says she tries to do her part to help her students.

“I love to ask how everyone is doing on a daily basis to let my students know that I’m available to listen if needed,” Teeple said. “I always make sure they know that I am available, as well as all of my colleagues, to offer a listening ear.”

As for training the future teachers of America, Teeple says she tries to make sure her students understand the importance of their role.

“In several of my classes, we discuss the individual standards and how important the teacher is in helping students develop their executive functioning just by the routines they offer in the classroom,” Teeple said.

“Having the tools and strategies is important, as well as training,” Recker said.