Monica Symes awarded Kansas School Psychologist of the Year

BVNW school psychologist Monica Symes received the Kansas School Psychologist of the Year award at the 2018 KASP Fall Convention in Wichita, Kan. Oct. 5.


Photo courtesy of Monica Symes

School psychologist Monica Symes was awarded Kansas School Psychologist of the Year at the Kansas Association of School Psychologists (KASP) Fall Conference Oct. 5.

Anna Cowden, Editor-in-chief

School psychologist Monica Symes was awarded Kansas School Psychologist of the Year on Friday at the Kansas Association of School Psychologists (KASP) Fall Conference in Wichita, Kan. She was nominated by principal Amy Pressly.

“During my time as an educator, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great and some not so great school psychologists,” Pressly wrote in her nomination letter. “I would say that Monica is at the top of the list of the great ones.”

Crying as she realized the announcer was describing herself as the winner, Symes said she had not expected the accolade.

“There’s still this little piece of me that’s like ‘Really me?,’” Symes said. “I have to say that I give the credit for this to my amazingly supportive family. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive family.”

After receiving the award, she said she immediately texted some of her professors from her alma mater, Pittsburg State University, to thank them.

BVNW counselor Beth Ricke said some of Symes’ family, Northwest social worker Anyssa Lenhart and her were able to drive to the conference to surprise Symes.

“It was emotional too because I know how hard she works, and how much she deserves it,” Ricke said. “I know how humble she is, and how she probably was totally shocked because in her mind she’s just doing her job and what’s best for kids. For her to get an award for that I’m sure felt very uncomfortable for her.”

Symes said she is in her eighth year working at BVNW, with previous working experience at Harmony Elementary School, Harmony Middle School, Lakewood Middle School and Blue Valley Middle School.

While Symes said her job can at times be overwhelming because she is the only BVNW school psychologist, she said her work is fulfilling.

“School psychology is really an underrepresented, often under-recognized job. What makes me sad about that is it’s a fulfilling, amazing position to be in,” Symes said. “The field of school psychology is dwindling. There’s shortages in every state, except for New York. There’s more people retiring than we have people in grad school to complete a school psych degree.”

Symes noted her job has many differences compared to social work and counselor positions. She said she focuses the majority of her time on special education, while the social worker is evenly split between general education and special education, with the counselors focusing mostly on general education.

Pressly said in her nomination essay Symes goes beyond expectation in satisfying the emotional and social needs for students and staff.

“Her passion for special educated students is exceptional,” Pressly said. “And a large high school with over 160 gifted students and 110 special ed students, Monica knows each of these students. She knows their strengths and areas for growth.”

While being recognized as the Kansas School Psychologist of the Year, Symes said she was grateful for the opportunity, and wished her other colleagues could be recognized in similar respects.

“I don’t feel like I’m different from any of my colleagues,” Symes said. “It’s just someone took the time to recognize me. I wish that every person had that opportunity to be recognized for what they do.”