The James Morehouse Project was started by an El Cerrito High School teacher who saw unaddressed health and mental health needs impeding student learning and overall wellbeing. She and other health center staff prioritize strong personal and professional relationships with teachers. Teachers who are knowledgeable about and invested in the James Morehouse Project are more likely to make referrals and reach out for consultation.
At the beginning of each year, James Morehouse Project staff introduce themselves and health center services at a schoolwide staff meeting. They then foster ongoing communication by regularly attending meetings, distributing flyers, organizing student presentations, talking with individual teachers, and participating in a staff listserv that facilitates open dialogue about student support policies and procedures. Health center staff are committed to following up with teachers who refer students to the James Morehouse Project to ensure continued collaboration and information sharing. In addition, health center staff are sometimes called to participate in Student Support Team meetings for students with whom they are working, collaborating closely with teachers and administrators in planning and implementing interventions. Finally, the health center hosts teacher appreciation events—sometimes even providing much-needed massages!
Ultimately, strong relationships between teachers and school health center staff impact student success in positive ways. When teachers at El Cerrito High School were worried about the frequency with which certain students were being pulled out of class for health and mental health services, James Morehouse Project staff were receptive to their concerns. They worked closely with teachers and administrators to minimize learning disruptions, successfully creating flexible schedules that effectively balanced students’ academic, health, and mental health needs. And, when teachers identify specific students in need of services, they feel comfortable reaching out to health center staff to initiate collaborative solutions. According to one teacher, “I and my students have benefited from the James Morehouse Project. It’s a total package. I feel sorry for teachers who don’t have it – it’s a crown jewel.”