I am honored to present the 2021 MSSWA Career Achievement Award to my friend and fellow social justice warrior Dr. Stephanie Ochocki. Dr. Stephanie Ochocki’s contributions to the field of School Social Work have been pivotal at the local, state, regional and national levels. Her passion for advocacy, human rights, educational equity and social justice has truly defined who she is as a professional. In 2005 while in graduate school at the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville, Stephanie found her calling by not only obtaining her Masters of Social Work Degree but also choosing to specialize in the field of school social work by earning her school social work certification. Shortly after graduation, Stephanie moved to Minnesota and began working as a School Social Worker for the Anoka-Hennepin School District where she honed her gifts and mental health expertise. For example, she provided individual and group supportive counseling for identified students on issues such as family change, grief/loss, social skills, coping skills, and self-esteem; conducted school wide prevention programs supporting positive school climate and community character skills; provided crisis intervention and supports for students and staff and acted as a liaison between home, school, and community to bridge student success and so much more.
During her tenure with Anoka-Hennepin School District from 2005-2020, Stephanie emerged as a rising school social work leader in her district and also completed her Doctorate of Social Work degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2017. At the district level, Stephanie shared her expertise by offering staff professional development and training on mental health issues as well as collaborating with staff, administration and educational teams to meet the social/emotional and academic needs of students through multi-tiered interventions. Stephanie
stepped into the roles of Lead Social Worker from 2012-2016 and then the District School Social Worker from 2016-2020. As the District School Social Worker, her responsibilities expanded to the advancement of evidence-based best practices for adaptation and implementation by school counselors and school social workers across the district and coordinated district-wide trauma response teams, trained district responders, and provided clear communication within the organization regarding student and staff needs. Then in 2020, Stephanie accepted the position of Student Support and SEL Coordinator for Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan District 196, where she continues to build the capacity of staff in effectively meeting student social, emotional and academic needs and shaping programs that foster positive academic outcomes for all students.
Stephanie’s dedication to students, families, education and the communities she supports is also evident through her service at the state, regional and national levels. Serving in various leadership roles. For MSSWA she served as Region IV Representative 2007-2008, 2014-2017, President of the Minnesota School Social Workers Association 2009-2011, Chairperson for MSSWA’s Networking & Communications Committee from 2011-2015 and continues to be active on the MSSWA Legislative Committee. She joined with Sue Schroeder MSSWA Treasurer to offer their school social work perspective and expertise as a Committee Members on the Social Emotional Learning Competencies & Benchmarks Work Group hosted by the Minnesota Department of Education, 2016-2017. She also served as a Board Member for the Midwest School Social Work Council 2008-2011 and is the current Midwest Representative for the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA).
Furthermore, she has co-authored numerous articles for SSWAA, contributed as an author for two chapters in the books Evidence-based practice in school mental health: Addressing DSM-5 disorders in schools and The Art of Becoming Indispensable: What School Social Workers Need to Know in Their First Three Years of Practice, both published by Oxford Press, and her research Evaluating the Zones of Regulation® intervention to improve the self-control of elementary students was recently published in the International Journal of School Social Work.
Stephanie as exemplified the value of micro, mezzo and macro social work practice. As you can see Stephanie’s contributions to the field of Social Work, the students, families and communities she has served is expansive. She continues to be a transformational leader on all levels. Please help us in congratulating Dr. Stephanie Ochocki as MSSWA’s 2021 Career Achievement Award Winner. Thank you Stephanie for continuing to be a bridge between research to practice, helping to empower school social workers across the nation and for being a fierce advocate. Congratulations!