A group photo of the PWCS psychologists

School psychologists nationwide are celebrated in early November in recognition of National School Psychology Week (Nov. 6-10, 2023). In Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS), every school has access to a school psychologist to help serve the needs of our students and families.

School psychologists provide direct support and interventions to students and consult with teachers, administrators, school social workers, and counselors to improve support strategies. They also work with administrators to improve schoolwide practices and policies and collaborate with community providers to coordinate needed services.

A large portion of their jobs includes supporting Child Find. Child Find is part of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which states public schools must identify, locate, evaluate and support students who need special education (SPED). School psychologists conduct psychological evaluations and participate in decisions related to SPED eligibility.

Rebecca Zaja is the PWCS administrative coordinator of psychological services. Zaja works with 60 school psychologists, four psychology interns, four psychology contractors, and 10 diagnosticians in the division and spoke to their dedication.

“The school psychologists in our division are an incredibly hardworking, ethical, and compassionate group of professionals and I have the honor of working directly in support of them every day. They wear many hats and work in so many diverse roles, and truly want the best for our students,” said Zaja.

Ceci Suarez is part of this dedicated group. She’s a second-year school psychologist at Rippon Middle School, but she’s worked toward this role for years. Suarez interned with PWCS for three years while she was in graduate school at George Mason University.

PWCS currently offers 10 full-time internships in school psychology to highly qualified applicants. This internship program provides interns with a wide range of experiences to meet the 1,200-hour requirement and provides a pipeline to begin working in a PWCS school.

For Suarez, it’s a dream come true to work at Rippon Middle. She attended Rippon herself, which makes her even more relatable to her students. Some of her students even like to check out previous Rippon yearbooks to find her picture. Suarez is bilingual and bicultural, and really focuses on helping her students understand different perspectives and connecting with families. She finds it most rewarding when she’s able to turn students’ frowns upside down.

“There is something so special about guiding a crying child through their pain- allowing them space to regain their innate resilience that enables them to find balance and take the necessary steps forward to rejoin the learning environment with a fresh mind,” said Suarez.

This is just part of the invaluable work our school psychologists provide PWCS students. We appreciate them and everything they do to support our students and schools.