Christine Kane has considerable pride in the faculty, staff, and students she supports at Ottawa Elementary School District 141. As a tenured school psychologist with thirteen years of experience at 141, her responsibilities are vast. She is responsible for more than 1,700 students spread across the District. Luckily the facility and staff she supports also support her.
Leaning into Social, Emotional, and Mental Health
“I build relationships and support everyone the best I can.
“I’m fortunate. We have terrific staff in each of the buildings I’m in. There are some wonderful people here,” says Christine. She adds, “I’ve been around for so long now that I know most everyone I’m working with and have built some great relationships with lots of the people here.”
Ottawa is halfway between where she and her husband grew up. They consider the area a fantastic mixture of city and country life, providing a perfect blend of the two atmospheres. Christine grew up in the Chicago suburbs but has considered Ottawa her home for over a dozen years. She was introduced to her future husband by a mutual friend while in graduate school, working toward her School Psychology Specialist Degree at Western Illinois University. After they married and realized Ottawa was the perfect compromise.
When listening to Christine discuss her day-to-day role as a school psychologist, one can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of her responsibilities. Luckily, this isn’t a feeling that she shares. When asked why her role is so essential, she cuts right to the point, admitting that some students have suffered “a lot of trauma” and have a profound need for support. She also stresses the difference between our current environment and prior generations.
“Special Ed has a whole continuum of services now. It’s no longer the days spent in the basement or boiler room. It’s really changed over the years. It’s more supportive and nurturing for the student,” says Christine.
A typical day involves teacher consultations, including special education teachers, assisting students with academic and behavioral needs, and completing student assessments and progress monitoring. If that wasn’t enough, she helps case managers develop student-specific planning. Sometimes crisis prevention and intervention can also be necessary.
“We have a great team of [in-house] counselors and social workers here, so we can refer kids to be in weekly social skills groups and things like that,” remarks Christine. “If we feel that a student has more needs than we can address, we can refer them to outside therapists and mental health providers in the area. We have lots of strong partnerships with community organizations.”
It isn’t just the students who benefit from her expertise. Occasionally Christine will have facility and staff speak with her regarding their concerns. From allowing the individual to vent to get something off their chest to problem-solving sessions, she strives to be a resource for everyone in the district as she realizes emotionally and mentally healthy teachers are best equipped to be strong stewards of the student body. Her goal is simple but not easy. “I build relationships and support everyone the best I can.”
“It’s kind of fun if I start seeing a kiddo in kindergarten, to follow them through their academic career, up through eighth grade, when we say our final farewell and hand them off to the high school.”
Christine touches countless lives daily with her tenure, expertise, and strong relationships. From the students and their extended families to the faculty and staff, Christine ensures that everyone she interacts with shows up as the best version of themselves. Christine and her husband now have two children in the district--a sixth grader at Central and a Kindergartener at McKinley. Christine has given so much of herself to the teachers and facility of Ottawa over the past thirteen years. It seems only fitting they’re now pouring back into her children.