Sarah Berg & Sanaa Scott
SLA’s school psychologist, Dr. Wendy Galson, may be hidden away in a small office in the health suite, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t doing big things for the school, utilizing her extensive experience in the psychology field.
“I’ve worked in a lot of different schools, I’ve been in the district for 12 years,” Dr. Galson stated. “I was a therapist for 25 years before I switched over to working in schools. I just felt like I wanted to reach more people and have more impact than I did just in my office.”
Dr. Galson’s office is located on the second floor, across from the nurse, she is here on Thursdays and Fridays.
A lot of students may not even know SLA has a psychologist. This is largely due to Dr. Galson’s limited time here and heavy workload.
Dr. Galson works in all three SLA schools, plus the Workshop School in West Philly. Because of this, she can only work with students briefly.
“I am really good for when somebody needs a few tools to help them,” Dr. Galson said.
“A lot of people are very stressed out about a lot of things, and there are two things that I would usually do. One is, to take a deep breath and look around. That’s great stress management. The other is to ask the question, about any stressful situation; what can I control, and what can’t I control? The thing to focus on is one step at a time, addressing the things I can control.”
School Counselor Zoe Siswick is deeply appreciative of Dr. Galson’s presence at the school.
“If the world was perfect and richer,” chuckled Ms. Siswick, “we would love to have her here full time, it would give her more opportunity to help on the assessments with IEP and 504 plans. It would also give her time to do what she’s best at, which is working with students and being a psychologist,”
“Sometimes I have cases where I feel stuck. Rather than her giving advice, sometimes it’s helpful for a student to see a fresh face and have someone else that can work closely with them.”
History at SLA
Dr. Galson’s work here at SLA is not the only thing connecting her to the school. Her son Greg Windle, was in the first graduating class of the school.
“I love this school. I’m one of the originals. I really like being here, I really like the educational world that’s used here.”
“The people who are here, at SLA, have actively chosen to come. In many schools, things are much more regimented,” Dr. Galson said. “There’s much less opportunity for people to connect with each other, you all have an hour for lunch; this is so rare in the district.”
Ms. Siswick feels that this double role is one of Dr. Galson’s strengths.
“The fact that she’s been an SLA parent means that she understands things at SLA can be a little different. She understands the type of care and support that our students are getting here, so when she is working with students and their families she gets what their needs might be and what needs are being already being met.”
Dr. Galson also has a past at Benjamin Franklin High School, where SLA will co-locate in 2019. “I worked at Ben Franklin for six years, and so this whole transition is very exciting to me because it’s kind of bringing the threads together.”
On whether or not she will be coming to Ben Franklin along with SLA, Galson simply stated, “There will be a psychologist if it’s me or not I don’t know.”
Giving Back to the SLA Community
Dr. Galson works largely along with the teachers and counselors, mostly assisting on IEPs.
English Teacher Larissa Pahomov has her own thoughts about the counseling at SLA.
“What I appreciate about the counselors and our school psychologist and other support services is that, when there’s something I don’t know how to deal with, that I can turn to them, and then they have a larger toolkit of things that they can do.”
Ms. Pahomov sees Dr. Galson’s role as integral to the school functioning.
“If a student with an IEP or some other situation needs an evaluation she will come to us and ask us questions or ask to fill out a form about the student. So the instance where I go, ‘Oh, I really think this student needs to see a psychologist’ is actually pretty rare. It’s usually that there’s someone who is already in that system and she’s coming to us,” Ms. Pahomov said.
“She’s very professional and also very kind, in the few times I’ve made a plan with her for a student it’s always like ‘what will help the student the most and interrupt their lives the least’, even when it’s a serious situation, she just wants to keep everybody calm and moving along.”
Dr. Galson has an equal level of respect for the staff at SLA.
“I like to think that I can help the teachers do their jobs here. Mostly I work with the teachers if they’re having a problem the teacher will come to me and discuss it. I am one of the few staff members in the school who can really talk to one student at a time. It’s a real privilege.”