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Meet Joel Hansen, mental health specialist
Joel Hansen began his service to Northeast Metro 916 students and staff on Jan. 23, but he is by no means new to the field. He supervised the day treatment program at the Washburn Center for Children for years, where he supported children ages 3-9 who were struggling with the impacts of trauma and complex toxic stress.
Joel now supports the elementary programs at Northeast Metro 916, so you can find him around Karner Blue, ALP - John Glenn and ALP - Valley Crossing. He works one-on-one with students when they need extra support, and gives education assistants and teachers strategies to meet students’ mental health needs. He was quick to point out, however, that our staff are already very skilled in this area. “A big part of what I’ve done so far is validating the work that is already underway,” he said. “The patience, care and authentic commitment to students is like something I’ve never experienced before on such a large scale.”
Aligning mental health and academic needs is crucially important to a child’s development, according to Joel. New learning creates stress in all of us which is a good thing; however when students come to school preoccupied or overwhelmed by stress, that new learning becomes very difficult. That means school staff are tasked with managing both their academic and social/emotional needs.
Schools often serve as a protective measure against the stress and risk factors in students’ lives. When students come to school feeling welcomed, cared for, and that the adults they encounter will support their overall well-being, that can help alleviate some of the distress they are experiencing. Joel once considered becoming a teacher, but found his passion for education could easily integrate with his personal interest in children’s mental health. “One of the things I really enjoy is bringing the experience of working with distressed and challenging kids into an academic setting,” he said. “Unless we attend to the challenges that they bring to the classroom, we can’t be as effective in teaching.”
Kevin Horst, who supports the mental health needs in the school district’s secondary programs, has known Joel for years. They met because Joel played soccer with Kevin’s sons as a child! After Joel grew up and began his career in Kevin's field of work, Kevin supervised Joel in a day treatment program before recruiting him to work in our schools.
In his free time, Joel enjoys spending time outdoors, especially around the St. Croix river, where he kayaks, hikes, camps, and bikes. He also enjoys watching sports (mostly hockey and soccer). If you have opinions about English Premier league soccer, he’s your guy!