Social workers honored throughout March

Published 8:00 pm Monday, March 4, 2019

This week is specifically declared as School Social Work Week in Minnesota.  This has also been a year of celebration in commemoration of 50 years of the Minnesota School Social Work Association.

In 1984, The White House officially recognized March as National Social Work Month as a means to highlight the work of the profession. Thirty-five years later, this recognition continues to encourage the public to pause to consider the important and often behind the scenes work of social workers in society.

According to a press release, the Albert Lea school district has a total of nine school social workers, working across the district in every building from early childhood through Albert Lea High School and Area Learning Center.

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All school social workers in Albert Lea are dually licensed through the Minnesota Department of Education as well as the Minnesota Board of Social Work.

Most of the social workers in District 241 have a master’s degree, and several hold a clinical social work license, which means they are mental health professionals who can provide direct mental health services to students and are clinically trained mental health resources for students, staff parents and administration.

Within the Albert Lea school district, social workers work with general education and special education students. In the school setting, they assist in promoting academic growth by providing a vital link between schools, homes and communities.

School social workers strive to improve student welfare by providing information about community resources such as free dental work, eye care assistance, weekend food support, financial assistance programs, mental health support and connections to other community partners, the release stated.

As part of the special education and general education teams, social workers conduct assessments, participate in consultation with parents/guardians, school staff and community providers, develop goals based on identified needs, participate in intervention team meetings and teach students new skills to assist in educational and social success, the release stated.

Social workers often confront very challenging barriers to a child’s ability to achieve success in school, such as learning disabilities, truancy, chemical dependency, emerging mental health disorders, physical disabilities, poverty and homelessness. 

School social workers help students, parents and school staff identify barriers that interfere with a students’ academic or social success and support, encourage, advocate and assist students to achieve despite those barriers in their lives.

The social workers in the Albert Lea school system believe that every child should have the opportunity to achieve to the highest extent of their ability despite any obstacles they may encounter. Education is a critical component to lifelong success and connection to others is foundational to the human existence, the release stated.

They are advocates for education, families, for the well-being of students.

District 241 school social workers are:

  • Kim Anderson, Sibley Elementary School
  • Katie Nielsen, Hawthorne Elementary School
  • Amy Brouwers, Halverson Elementary School
  • Nicole Brooks, Lakeview Elementary School
  • Stephanie Engebretson, Southwest Middle School
  • Breanna Rhiner, Southwest Middle School
  • Jennifer Braaten, Albert Lea High School & Alternative Learning Center
  • Heather Leiste, Albert Lea High School
  • Mary Larscheid, Albert Lea High School & Early Childhood Special Education.

For more information about the role of the district’s school social workers, visit