The thought of a long fulfilling career as a school psychologist had not even crossed Brittany Waggoner’s mind when she was in college. She wanted to become a therapist or counselor so she enrolled in the master’s in social work (MSW) program and started work at a local community mental health clinic. After three weeks, she quickly realized that social work was not for her.
“I had the hardest time working with clients that did not want to be there. They were majority court-ordered and CPS involved. It was not a good fit. I needed more, more ability to see impact and feel like I was doing good,” adds Waggoner.
She researched other fields of psychology and called her graduate school academic counselor the day before the scheduled start of her MSW program to inquire about the school psychology program.
“My husband is a teacher, so not only was the schedule of schools perfect but I was intrigued by the investigative portion of the job, and the prospect of having a positive impact with children.”
Career Path, Embracing the Hybrid Model
After earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Idaho and her master’s degree in School Psychology from Argosy University (Phoenix), Brittany has served in various professional roles including Special Education Director/Principal after earning her Ed.S. in Sped Ed Director/Principal from Northwest Nazarene University.
“My greatest love was building administration, however, with COVID and the structure within Oregon, I was unable to continue with so much separation from my children so I returned to being a school psychologist (my first love!). That’s where The Hello Foundation (THF) came into play (due to Cohorting) and created the perfect scenario for my family. I’m forever grateful,” said Waggoner.
As a School Psychologist (Hybrid Model) with THF, there is no typical day for Brittany. She manages a hectic schedule, which includes supporting the development of individualized education plans (IEPs), completing evaluations, attending parent and tiered intervention meetings, and staffing student behavior. But much of what she does in a day is subject to student behavior and school staff needs as situations arise.
“Behavior and mental health concerns have been on the rise, and in a large system there are many moving parts, so texts, calls, emails and video conferencing can happen on the fly, with anyone within that system. This requires a ton of flexibility, and availability, for consults and staffing, which is a large part of my days,” adds Waggoner.
The Hello There Hybrid Model combines the best of both worlds — monthly on-site visits paired with daily online services. Teletherapy is an effective and efficient way to deliver direct services to students, but nothing replaces a specialist working in the building when it comes to collaboration with teachers, school staff, and families. The SLPs and school psychologists at THF train and supervise aides, write lesson plans, provide direct and consultative services to students, complete compliance paperwork, and hold and attend meetings.
“I’m in love with the Hybrid Model. It’s literally perfect for being remote in Idaho and working in a Washington school, while balancing children and my professional career. I get to be involved, integrated into their school system and get to see them in-person monthly to grow relationships, make connections and create the “human” aspect of being an online provider,” said Waggoner.
THF Fosters Strong Culture, Clinician Development
THF focuses on a culture of professional development – fostering a commitment to growth for one another and the kids it serves. THF acts as an advocate between the district and the clinician, handling any issues or challenges that may arise so that the clinician can focus on serving the kids.
“THF is incredibly unique in the sense of professional respect. The company has been empowering when it comes to respecting me as a professional, trusting how I manage my time and supporting me through negotiations, structure and valuing me for my skill set.”
“I’ve loved having such a strong team in my corner who not only says they believe in me, but acts and invests as they believe in me and my value. This is much different than how the school systems have interacted with me in my previous roles as a district employee,” adds Waggoner.
In her spare time, Brittany and her family enjoy the outdoors (RzRs, dirt bikes, camping, paddleboarding, boating) and she and her husband support their kids’ participation in various sports, including volleyball, football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, and rodeo.
Her husband coaches high school football, junior high wrestling, junior high basketball, and baseball (Minors), while Brittany coaches high school wrestling, recreational basketball and baseball (Coach Pitch). In addition, they volunteer for 4H and FFA, and her husband teaches at a local school.
“My proudest accomplishment has always been and always will be my children. They are my legacy and in this role I’m able to be there for them 100%, while still growing my career. They’ve thrived under the hybrid model, and I’ll never regret being able to be present more and bare witness to who they’re becoming. I’m excited for how my presence has impacted them and how their roles as adults will be shaped in our community and in our world.”
Brittany’s Tips for New Clinicians
- Be open and invest in understanding the ENTIRE school system, not just your scope. Try to wrap your mind around the ins and outs, the impacts, the people as they fit into the specific situation. What is possible? What is realistic? And with this in mind, formulate a plan that maximizes the strengths of the system, those within it and then subsequently, positively supports the student. Without the larger picture in mind when developing an approach, tensions can rise and more barriers can be thrown up. Work with them, not against them. This is the emotional intelligence part of the position that is so critical to your effectiveness as a school psychologist leader in your building. Read the room, read the body language, and adjust accordingly. Being mindful of the room and your audience increases your effectiveness. It increases your ability to gauge where to go, how things need to be said and make the essential baby steps to get to the end goal.
- Be genuine in all interactions, be human, be transparent. BE YOU! It’s OK to be authentic and transparent. It’s scary sometimes, but I’ve never had it backfire in any of my roles, with families or staff. It’s not always pretty and sometimes nerve-wracking being so vulnerable, but it’s created open and honest relationships grounded in respect and leading to high trust for me personally. It’s OK to be honest! If you do not know, say it. If you need help, say it. If you disagree, say it. The relationships grounded in trust, created from this approach, will be able to handle the disagreement if you’ve invested with authenticity! Promise!
- Don’t get worked up. Stay calm, don’t take things personally and remember, there is no problem we cannot solve together. Everything always seems to work out, one way or another. But if you’re worked up and defensive, you’ve given away your greatest gift…clarity. Always be a part of the solution. If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.
The Hello Foundation is proud to be a part of the Care Options for Kids Community. At Care Options for Kids, we are committed to making a difference for our people through empowerment and encouragement to be there for themselves and their own families. We provide the choices and opportunities our people need to enhance their lives and grow their careers so they can provide better care for others. We believe in making a difference in every way, every day.
With locations in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Oregon, Washington, California, and Wyoming, the Care Options for Kids Community offers a wide range of pediatric health services, including pediatric therapies, ABA therapy, nursing, Family Caregiver Services, and school-based services.
At THF, we hire speech-language pathologists, speech-language pathology assistants, school psychologists, and occupational therapists. Our community of professionals fosters growth for one another and for the kids we serve. Join our team!