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Q & A with a social worker: Marlee Nirenstein

School social worker Marlee Nirenstein

Ndunzi Kunsunga and Jacob Stillman

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Q: What does your job as a social worker entail?

A: It is really very much a direct service role, meaning that pretty much all we do is see kids. It is a combination of meeting with students one on one, looking at what’s getting in the way of students being successful in school. Trying to address those problems.

Q: How long have you been working here?

A: I have been employed here since 2000. I have been working with adolescents for 20 years but I’ve been employed here since 2000. This is my 17th year.

Q: Do you enjoy your job?

A: I do like it. I very much like my role as an advocate. I see myself as an advocate for students. Very much of the reality is that most of the learning comes on the job not from the schooling. As a teacher perspective I’ve realized so much of the learning doesn’t come from school. So much of it you learn on the job.

Q: What do you dislike?

A: I think it’s hard to work in an environment where 98 percent of the people do something different than you and that’s just a challenge. I’m a mental health professional, but I work in an education institution, so my lens is always going to be looking at the big picture – looking at the whole student at a kind of more macro-view of the student. Kind of from multiple perspectives. Whereas teachers, their focus is, understandably so, on educating kids and making sure they are learning the material. That’s an example of one of the challenges. When you do something different than almost everyone around you, your agenda might not always align with someone else’s.

Q: What have you learned from what you do?

A: I think that kids are very, very resilient overall. It is amazing to me how some students are able to come to school and then go home and deal with some of the challenges they have to deal with, so just seeing the power of how resilient some people can be despite the challenges.

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Q & A with a social worker: Marlee Nirenstein