For Christine Mitchell-Endsley, Ph.D. ’03, helping students is a team sport.
To her colleagues, Mitchell-Endsley is an all-star.
The Illinois State University alumna last month earned the Illinois School Psychologists Association’s Ted Smith Practitioner of the Year Award. Mitchell-Endsley was nominated by a peer at their southern Illinois special education cooperative, where she helps every student learn to their fullest potential.
“Honestly, the award was very humbling,” she said. “To win for the entire state was very special.”
Mitchell-Endsley graduated from Illinois State’s Department of Psychology, which offers doctoral and specialist programs in school psychology. With more than 600 alumni across the U.S., Illinois State’s graduate programs were the first in Illinois to receive approval from the State Teacher Certification Board.
Mitchell-Endsley’s passion for psychology was sparked while an undergraduate pre-law student at University of Illinois, where she did child advocacy work as a senior. Hoping to work with children, she chose Illinois State’s graduate program because it gave her the flexibility to go into school psychology or pursue private practice as a licensed clinical psychologist after graduation.
It didn’t take long for her to figure out that she wanted to work in schools.
“The thing I liked best about Illinois State’s program was that from Day 1, you’re working in a real school system and you’re working with students,” Mitchell-Endsley said. “You’re immediately out in the field.”
She praised faculty such as Mark Swerdlik and Adena Meyers for building up her skills in clinical practice, report writing, and data analysis. When she was enrolled, ISU’s school psychology doctoral program was the only one in Illinois accredited by the American Psychological Association.
“Christine was a bright and passionate doctoral student with a particular interest in working in our For Children’s Sake project, which involved providing services to children who had witnessed domestic violence,” said Swerdlik. “She enjoyed positive relationships with her classmates, faculty, and field supervisors. Her positive attitude, passion, and sense of humor made her a joy to have in class or to supervise.”
Mitchell-Endsley works for the Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative (BASSC), which serves 24 member school districts near St. Louis. She enjoys working with a broad array of students, from ages 3 to 22. Some children have autism, or attention deficit disorder. Others have emotional needs, or are homeless. Some qualify for special education, others don’t. One student recently wanted to discuss whether he should join the military.
“I like the diversity of issues and the diversity of students,” she said.
Her role—like many school psychologists—is to collaborate and problem-solve with a full team of school staff. She does screenings, assessments, observations, and consultations, and plans interventions.
There are certainly challenges—a lack of resources chief among them—as well as simply not having enough hours in a day to do all she’d like. The most rewarding part of her job is seeing students succeed.
“In a school setting I almost see immediate success for these kids, which is really rewarding,” said Mitchell-Endsley, also an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University in Belleville.
Mitchell-Endsley was recognized in February at the Illinois School Psychologist Association Convention. The association has 1,200 members.
“She is a terrific school psychologist,” BASSC Executive Director Jeff Daugherty told the Belleville News-Democrat in February. “One of the best I’ve ever worked with. Winning this award not only says that, locally, her colleagues think a lot of her. But she is very well regarded by her peers all over the state.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.