CT Association of School Psychologists Honors Paula Gill Lopez, PhD

CT Association of School Psychologists Honors Paula Gill Lopez, PhD

Photo of Paula Gill Lopez, PhD

Paula Gill Lopez, PhD

Dr. Gill Lopez was awarded the 2022 Distinguished Service Award by the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists (CASP) for her contributions to the field.

The goal is for all districts, including those that are under-resourced, to have access to more security training and mental health outreach.

— Paula Gill Lopez, PhD

Each year the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists (CASP) honors an individual who has made an impact in the field. Director of the School of Education and Human Development School Psychology program Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, was honored with the 2022 CASP Distinguished Service Award for her leadership in establishing a school crisis response center in Connecticut, and for her strong advocacy for self-care among practitioners.

Dr. Gill Lopez has trained hundreds of school psychologists throughout her career, many of whom have gone into leadership roles at both the state and national level, said CASP President Sarah Gelish MA’15. “As one of her prior students, and now president of the organization, I can firmly and gratefully say that the field of school psychology in Connecticut will always be indebted to Dr. Gill Lopez.”

In addition to teaching, Dr. Gill Lopez has taken the lead in tackling issues evident in the field. In 2018 she was charged by CASP leadership to establish the Connecticut School Safety and Crisis Response committee, designed to help professionals deal with safety and mental health issues within schools. Joint efforts to institutionalize school safety and crisis mitigation into Connecticut State government paid off when the Center for School Safety and Crisis Preparation at Western Connecticut State University, had its grand opening last August. The Center is dedicated to bringing state resources together to increase security across school districts.

“The goal is for all districts, including those that are under-resourced, to have access to more security training and mental health outreach,” said Dr. Gill Lopez who is chair of the state-wide committee responsible for coordinating meetings, prevention trainings, and responses to traumatic events in school districts.

“There are so many people leaving education and school mental health services today and there are too few practitioners in the community to service all the students and adults who need it.”

That’s the reason for Dr. Gill Lopez’s other passion: advocating for self-care among educators, school psychologists, and other caregivers. Indeed, she’s been raising awareness about burnout and self-care among caregivers long before the pandemic brought the issue to the forefront. This group of people is self-sacrificing by nature, she says, and they are accustomed to putting others first, often at the risk of their own mental health.

“My workshop participants seem hungry to be given permission to practice self-care, and Covid turbocharged the self-care revolution,” said Dr. Gill Lopez, noting that self-care doesn’t necessarily mean doing something extra. “It can mean taking a moment to practice gratitude and to recognize what’s around us. It’s finding the peace within ourselves and having the ability to function optimally.” For years, she has conducted self-care workshops for her graduate students, teachers, and school mental health providers around the state, stressing that they’ll be more resilient and will suffer less burnout if they attend to their own well-being.

“Paula can often be heard saying that Fairfield University is a family, and that is absolutely true,” said Gelish. “From the day you enter the program through the day you graduate and onto your first job, Paula will always be there for you.”

Learn more about Fairfield’s School of Education and Human Development School Psychology Program and other programs available for candidates looking to work in K-12 schools and human development professions.

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