Richland's Angie Withers honored as Washington School Psychologist of the Year
Richland EA member and school psychologist Angie Withers says she feels humbled that the Washington State Association of School Psychologists honored her as Washington State School Psychologist of the Year at its fall conference.
Each year, the association chooses a school psychologist who demonstrates excellence and "a dedication to improving conditions for children, families, schools and communities."
The specific work she was recognized for was formation of the Richland School District's Mental Health Assistance Team (MHAT), which she co-leads with Richland school social worker Michelle Sorenson.
MHAT connects students and their families to social and emotional support including assessments, crisis intervention and referrals to community services. It launched in early 2021 after years of work to address both school-based threat-assessment requirements and social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum -- with pandemic-related needs added in along the way.
Withers sees student well-being as a team effort: "Having a group of professionals who share trust and mutual respect, keep students and their families in the center of our conversations and considerations, and enjoy working with students is essential in this work. I learn from my colleagues each and every day, so this is truly an award for all of us."
On the district's website, Richland Assistant Superintendent Todd Baddley calls Withers "incredibly deserving of this honor."
While organizing and launching a comprehensive mental and emotional-health program in the middle of a pandemic is a huge achievement, Withers is not content to rest on her laurels.
"Building on a foundation such as this allows us to keep moving forward, even in our trying times," she says. "My goal is to continue building on humankind’s collective strength and resiliency to make our schools supportive, safe, and an engaging learning environment. Every single student deserves that experience."
She also hopes that others will be inspired by her district's example to "speak up and just try" when they see a need, doing what they can while recognizing they won't be able to fix everything all at once.
"We can invest in helping each other and our students in becoming supportive and encouraging humans who value critical thinking and empathy," she says. "That will pay exponential dividends."