Rosa DiPiazza, BHP, a behavioral specialist with Milford School District was recently named Delaware Behavioral Health Specialist of the Year. DiPiazza has been with Milford since completing an internship as part of her master’s degree.
“I’ve always been interested in the intersection of science and behavior, but it took me some time to find the right balance for me,” DiPiazza said. “I worked in a neuroscience research lab for a while in college, but quickly realized I needed more human interaction. That led me to work with Domestic Violence Services, which solidified my desire to work with children and my belief in the importance of early intervention. Part of that work included partnering with schools to run prevention education groups. I loved working in schools and being able to provide consistent services to children. I initially started my graduate work in clinical psychology, but when I learned about school psychology, I realized it was a great fit for me and switched programs. I love school psychology because it combines data-driven interventions and science with direct human service. It’s the best of both worlds.”
DiPiazza graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. She worked as a Children’s Advocate with Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County before starting graduate school at Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania, where she earned a bachelor’s degree psychology and an educational specialist certification in school psychology. While DiPiazza was finishing her master’s degree, her mother moved to Delaware. She felt it made sense to search for internships and was selected for one in Milford where she has remained.
“One of the most challenging things about this job is how long it can take to see progress in student mental health,” DiPiazza said. “I think there’s sometimes a perception that everything gets better immediately if you just get someone started with counseling or other mental health supports. That’s usually not the case. Progress in mental health can be a slow process that sometimes doubles back on itself. It’s important to stay hopeful and optimistic. You have to be able to look for the incremental changes and hold expectations that are both high and reasonable. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t any progress being made at all, and then all of a sudden everything will come together. That can be a different kind of challenging. That’s usually when students graduate from my caseload, which means I see them less when everything is going well.”
One of the best parts of her job is building relationships with students, colleagues and families. DiPiazza explained that she loves feeling like she is part of the school community.
“I love watching students grow and learn and apply their new skills in new situations,” DiPiazza said. “Being involved in problem-solving teams and providing consultative support to colleagues is deeply rewarding. Not only can I see students improving, I am often also able to watch colleagues take those same skills and strategies and apply them in other situations with other students. Anything I can do to share my knowledge and expertise with others and build collective capacity is rewarding. Hoarded knowledge helps one person; shared knowledge helps us all.”
As part of the recognition, DiPiazza receives a $2,000 personal award in recognition of being chosen as the district Behavioral Specialist of the Year. She also receives an additional $3,000 as a state winner and the Delaware Department of Education provides her with a $5,000 grant to be used for the educational benefit of her students.
“I hope to use this platform to advocate for universal implementation of trauma-informed practices and well-functioning multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) in our schools,” DiPiazza said. “Things like having calming areas in our classrooms and schools, building consistent structure and routines into our days, and praising effort and growth feel like small changes, but they can go a long way towards making our students feel safe and cared for at school. When these things are part of every student’s school experience, we are then able to identify students who need additional supports and provide them with what they need without overwhelming our systems.”
Laura Manges, Director of Student Services, believes this was an amazing honor for DiPiazza, but is not at all surprised she received it.
“From the moment Rosa began working with our students in Milford, she provided a level of compassion, maturity and expertise that was extremely rare to find in such a young practitioner,” Manges said. “The Milford School community is truly fortunate to have Rosa DiPiazza on our team. She most certainly is a leader in behavioral health. I look for more great things to come from her leadership in the future.”
Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, echoed the sentiments of Manges.
“We are incredibly proud of Ms. DiPiazza for her deserved recognition as Delaware’s Behavioral Health Professional of the Year,” stated Dr. Dickerson. “We are extremely grateful to have Ms. DiPiazza working in the Milford School District and, furthermore, for the exceptional work that she does with our students, staff and families. This is a tremendous honor and is reflective of the huge impact she has serving our students and the entire Mispillion Elementary School’s school-community.”
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