Jessica Doerr reading to a child

The RCS Central School District is pleased to bring back our Feature-A-Teacher series for the 22-23 school year! This series highlights the immense effort and dedication of RCS teachers as they continue to inspire, collaborate and provide the necessary environment to keep our students engaged, learning, and happy.

To kick off the 22-23 year school year, we spoke with High School Social Worker Jessica Doerr, who has been at RCS for nearly 20 years. In that time, she has connected with thousands of students to support them during their time at RCS as they prepare for the world ahead. Today’s Q&A highlights Ms. Doerr’s love of her job and the importance of social-emotional learning.  

Can you tell RCS a little bit about yourself?

I am a social worker at RCS High School and have been here for 19 years. Prior to that, I was a therapist helping youth and families who had been harmed by sexual abuse, and before that, I was a nursery school teacher.

At home, I am a mom to a high school junior, a college sophomore, and a four-year-old yellow lab. My husband of 27 years teaches Political Science at HVCC. In my free time, I love playing guitar, seeing friends, laughing so hard it makes me cry and going to the beach. By the ocean, I feel the greatest sense of peace and joy.

Why did you decide to become a Social Worker? 

I became a social worker because I suffered a traumatic loss at a young age which inspired me to help others heal through trauma. I became a school social worker because I think it is important to build systems of support for children. I like to be part of a team and to advocate for positive change, and I really adore teenagers.

What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught you about your job and how we can best support our students? 

The pandemic has shone a light on the crucial need for mental health support. I am hopeful that access to services will continue to increase to meet the overwhelming need. Thankfully, RCS has increased access to social work support for students who need help throughout the school day. 

The pandemic has also given us profound reminders of what is truly important: love, health, community connection, and compassion. I hope we as a society can keep our eyes on these.

What advice do you have for students who may be struggling?

Please reach out to an adult and tell them you need help. It is amazing how much better things can get when you share how you are feeling and find the help you need. Always keep asking until you get the help you need. You deserve support.  

Also, if you are worried about another student, tell someone. I am certain that I have witnessed students sharing concerns about their peers saving lives.

What is social-emotional learning, and why is it so important for our students, staff, and community? 

Social-emotional learning is developing a vocabulary and skills for dealing with human emotions. The more we learn about emotions and how to express and manage them, the healthier we become, the healthier our relationships become, and the more successful we are in all areas of our lives. 

Social-emotional learning allows us to develop the language to communicate effectively, even when emotions and events are very challenging. When students learn to regulate emotions and respond to upset in healthy ways, it makes their lives better and the school community happier. The more we come to understand issues like PTSD (trauma response), anxiety, depression, and addiction, the better we become at supporting our students' learning and growth. 

What is your favorite memory of working at RCS? 

Every day, students amaze me with their insight, bravery, and resilience. I am beyond grateful for the trust students place in me when they share their stories, fears, and hopes. I am humbled and honored every day.  

My best memories are the moments when I get to see my grown-up students thriving. It’s also pretty awesome when they become social workers themselves!! I have beautiful memories from the Diversity Workshops too, watching students become leaders and powerful allies to one another!

As anyone who teaches near my room is well aware, I do a lot of laughing. Laughter is my favorite coping skill;  perhaps my happiest memories at RCS are the laughs I have shared with wonderful students and beloved colleagues.