2016 Awardee for Career Achievement
Deb led the way for school social work in southern Minnesota. She advocated the important skills and talents school social workers offer students and their families, in the Owatonna community during the late 1980’s. Her initiative encouraged key decision makers to take a closer look and resulted in nine full time SSW in the Owatonna Public Schools.
She has been instrumental in building a strong southern region, where collaboration and regular contact helps school social workers develop their practice skills through learning from each other and become involved legislatively. Deb worked as a MSSWA Region 1 representative for several years and then served as President – Elect, President, Past-President, Secretary and Newsletter Editor. She also has served on the Student Services Coalition, encouraging positive collaboration between the various professions involved in this group.
Deb has a unique and steadfast ability to connect with students and their families in a meaningful way, assisting everyone around her to reach their full potential. Deb’s manner of building relationships makes people feel cared about, respected, listened to, and appreciated. Her genuine style of social work is the very essence of professional practice. She was blessed with a remarkable sixth sense, realized often in her ability to recognize interpersonal struggles her clients haven’t previously been able to give voice to.
Deb’s glass is always half full. She emulates a positive, “can do” attitude, which is contagious. She doesn’t waste her time complaining but rather looks ahead and finds other resources and if necessary, changes the course. Deb treats students and their parents with dignity. She encourages her clients to view the world as one in which they can find success and prosper. Deb is not afraid to ask the tough questions, nor afraid to advocate even when the path may not be easy. If the outcome is in a child’s best interest, she is tenacious in supporting change and accommodations. She is a big picture person, quickly recognizing both strengths and barriers that cause students to stumble. She is creative, and uses her gift of music to enrich the lives of her students and colleagues. Deb loves to laugh.
There are many ways to build any mouse trap, and Deb never only considers one or two options. She allows her natural creativity to permeate her practice, developing plans for service to her students that bring out their talents and strengths. She was involved in spear-heading new and innovative programs for kids in the Owatonna Schools such as YSHOC and Conflict Managers. Each of these programs helped link the strengths that kids have to offer each other. She is not afraid to think outside the parameters of what is typical and will go the extra mile regularly to support people helping themselves. She was especially talented in leading parent support groups for parents of kids with significant emotional and behavioral difficulties.
Deb works very well with others and is viewed as a team player who builds relationships easily with colleagues, community professionals and peers. She has worked extensively in county social work and early childhood family education. Over the years, she has served on the boards of many organizations including the Steele County Mental Health Collaborative, Food Shelf, BB/BS, Cultural Diversity Network, Little Theater of Owatonna and the Clothesline. She has lead music worship in each of the churches she has been a member since the 1980’s.
Since her retirement from school social work in 2013, Deb has continued to provide profession
al supervision to a number of graduate level social workers, volunteered each year at the annual MACMH conference and kept her finger on the pulse of legislative initiatives impacting school children. She also has been hired as the Music Coordinator and pianist for The Recovery Church in St. Paul. But she would tell you, her new vocation is being “Oma” to a tribe of 12 and providing weekly childcare for three of her grandsons, Ben, Will and Joey.
Both well-known and well regarded, Deb brings positive energy, encouragement and competency to each task she embarks upon. Debra Brecht is the essence of excellence in social work in Minnesota.