SLPA Rachel Henno Discovered Her Passion While Working as a Substitute Teacher

December 8, 2023 BY Mike Ralston

A native of Ventura, CA, Rachel Henno had plans to earn her teaching credentials and work in the same school district she attended as a child. When she started working as a substitute teacher to gain additional hours and experience, she felt disconnected from many students in a large classroom and longed for more individualized instruction. 

It was during her stint as a substitute teacher at a high school special day class that she was able to work with students in much smaller groups. This setting allowed her to work more closely with individual students and learn how to best meet their needs. 

“I felt a great sense of purpose from helping someone learn to do something they couldn’t do before, and witnessing their excitement and self-confidence grow. After that, I began questioning a path in teaching and it was serendipitous that a colleague mentioned their enrollment in a second Bachelor’s program for Communication Disorders/Speech Pathology.”

“This field seemed to align more with my goals and values—interpersonal relationships, communication, emphasis on language and culture, working with individuals of diverse backgrounds and needs, individualized support, advocacy, client-centered care, research, and the flexibility and freedom to be creative in treatment and meet students where they are with the tools they need to grow,” adds Henno.

Rachel started her journey into communicative disorders at Utah State University, completing her Speech-Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA) fieldwork program at California State University-Northridge. She earned Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Communicative Disorders/Deaf Education from California State University-Channel Islands, and Utah State University respectively. She is currently in her final year of graduate school at Emerson College, and is slated to graduate in August 2024. 

SLPA Life at Vallejo School District

For the past five years Rachel has been enjoying life as a SLPA in between California and Colorado. She has worked for The Hello Foundation (THF) and its partner district, Vallejo School District, for the past three years.

Her day typically starts with a cup of coffee, followed by a thorough review of each students’ goals and the planning of materials and activities. Her day continues with a meeting with the SLP for check-ins and collaboration.

Her primary responsibilities as a SLPA at Vallejo School District is to provide the supervising SLP at multiple school sites with additional support by planning and developing materials and activities to address treatment goals; tracking student performance through detailed documentation and data; providing updates on progress and areas of strength/additional support; collaborating with teachers, parents, and care-team members; facilitating culturally-fluent and responsive learning approaches and environment; providing caregiver support and education for carryover skills; developing low-tech AAC materials and providing training to families and support staff; advocating for students and families to promote access to care and services designated in IEP; and scheduling, billing and completing continuing education to remain up-to-date on evidence-based practices. 

“I love that we have the opportunity and flexibility to make every day different. Although schedules and goals may remain the same throughout the school year, we are able to create or incorporate so many different types of materials and strategies that keep sessions from becoming repetitive or stagnant.”

“I love that if a student enters speech that day really excited about something they did over the weekend or about something they learned in class, we can blend their interests with speech to create a really fun and meaningful activity,” adds Henno.

RacheI works with 7-8 groups a day via teletherapy, ranging in goals related to language, articulation, fluency, hearing, AAC, social pragmatics, voice, and cognition. She tries to facilitate sessions that are largely child-led or incorporate their unique interests to encourage participation necessary for learning, and to create a fun, supportive, and engaging environment with ample communication opportunities.

After group sessions, she spends time writing up the day’s reports and entering billing before attending more end-of-day meetings with the special education team. 

THF’s Core Values, Ongoing Clinician Support

As a SLPA with THF, Henno feels a part of a greater community of amazing professionals that are all striving to provide valuable care and services to students and clients around the country.

“THF truly believes in and adheres to its core values and mission statement. I feel extremely supported in my growth and development as a clinician and graduate student, and am proud to be a THFer.”

“My biggest inspiration is every SLP I’ve met or worked with that inspires me to be a better clinician, and I’m lucky to know a lot, especially at Hello! I am extremely motivated by clinicians I see that truly advocate for their clients, while gracefully pulling from their toolbox of treatment techniques and strategies…and to celebrate communication achievements large and small, as well as share valuable knowledge and experiences with fellow clinicians.”

Work-Life Balance is the Key to Success

Before moving to Boulder, Rachel lived in Andalucía, Spain where she taught English at a local elementary school for a year and was able to travel to about 17 different countries during that time. 

“My biggest feat was traveling by myself to five different countries in 10 days (Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Hungary, England, and back to Spain) over spring break.”  

Her proudest accomplishment will be graduating with a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology at Emerson College next year. It’s a three-year program with two years of additional undergraduate study, and a full year of SLPA fieldwork certification. She has worked as a SLPA throughout this program while attending classes in the evenings and completing clinical placements.

“Hello has been so supportive throughout this process. I am beyond excited to enter the next school year as a clinical fellow in SLP and take on new responsibilities and clients!”

“After graduation, I plan to celebrate by crossing off life-long, bucket-list goals to swim with whale sharks with my dad and brother, and complete portions of the Camino de Santiago with my mom,” adds Henno.

In her free time, Rachel enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, going to concerts, and doing yoga. In the winters, she enjoys snowboarding, and in the summers, she likes to take her 1960s camper on road trips to state and national parks. 

“I have a three-year-old Husky/Border Collie mix named Kody, and she goes just about everywhere with me, along with my partner and his Red Heeler mix, Henry (David Thoreau).”

Rachel’s Three Tips for New Clinicians

  1. Be flexible, be creative! I’ve had countless sessions where I thought I planned the perfect activity for a client and it did not work out. I feel like the magic lies in the ability to think quickly on our feet and take any toy or made-up game and turn it into a fun, enriching therapy activity.

  2. Be confident in your abilities while always taking advantage of opportunities to grow! I love Hello’s professional development opportunities because research is constantly advancing and there are so many resources out there that help us to grow as clinicians and enhance treatment for clients.

  3. Ask for help! Hello is stocked with experienced, talented and knowledgeable clinicians that are always willing to share their thoughts, ideas and approaches. 

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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.

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