New school psychologist Jennifer Fisher leads the testing of students for individualized education plans. The results are evaluated by a team of administrators, teachers and counselors.
Even during her growing up years in Wichita, Jennifer Fisher was the kind of person people would come to with their problems.
Today, she fills that role professionally with children and parents as the new psychologist for the Hillsboro and Goessel school districts.
?I think I?ve always been a shy, kind of introverted person,? Fisher said, ?and I?ve always been a watcher of people?I watch what?s going on and figure out things.?
Her primary job at the two school districts is to test students who either have difficulty learning in the classroom or have outpaced their classmates.
?I really enjoy testing,? she said. ?I like the puzzle part of it?here?s the problem, let me see what I can figure out about why we?re having the problem.?
Once the testing is evaluated, Fisher works in tandem with school administrators, teachers and counselors to develop an indevidualized education plan that best meets the student?s needs.
?The goal at Hillsboro is to try to do interventions first,? she said. ?Hillsboro Elementary was one of the first schools to do that, and they do it well. They try to intervene and change learning and do different things before we test for placement in special ed, which is the last resort.
?They?re starting that at the middle school now,? she added.
The testing she does is with students, but Fisher said parental involvement is important in the process.
?The more involved I can be with parents, the better, because they know their kids best,? she said. ?They?re going to give me background?what?s going on at home, what?s happened in the past. I try to gather as much information as I can.?
Occasionally, Fisher said, school psychologists will help counsel students.
?We?ll do some counseling, but there are school counselors and school social workers who do a lot of that, too,? she said. ?Because caseloads get big, sometimes we step in and help with some of that.?
Fisher?s journey to her present position has followed an extended path.
After graduating from North High School in Wichita, she married husband Ben. The couple moved to Topeka, where he attended Washburn Law School; she completed a degree in Wash?burn?s undergraduate program.
About eight years ago, they moved to Hutchinson with their two daughters, now ages 12 and 13. Ben took a job as a prosecutor with the district attorney?s office. This past March, he entered private practice.
Meanwhile, Jennifer pursued graduate school at Wichita State University while working as a detention officer for the Reno County Juvenile Detention Center in Hutchinson and as a case manager for the state?s Juvenile Justice Authority.
But, it was a family member who influenced her to enter the school environment.
?My aunt is a school psychologist in Wichita,? Fisher said. ?I followed her around school one day and said, ?I really like that; I like working in a school, and with kids.??
In May, Fisher completed her specialization degree in education to go with her graduate degree in psychology.
She hooked up with the Hillsboro and Goessel districts through the Marion County Special Education Cooperative.
?When I went to interview with the director, Chris Cezar, he just won me over,? Fisher said. ?He talked very highly of both of these districts. He explained that the job would be (in Hills?boro), and then explained his philosophy?and it totally fit with mine. I thought, OK, this is where I?m going.?
Fisher works in Goessel on Monday and in Hillsboro all day Tuesday and Wednesday and most of Friday. Currently, the plan is for her to split Thursday between the two districts.
So far, her experience has been good.
?I really like it here,? she said. ?Everybody has been very pleasant and welcoming.?