Minnesota School Social Worker of the Year 2018

Cathy Dalnes 

Minneapolis Public Schools

“Visible and Valuable”

The Minnesota School Social Workers Association proudly announces the selection of Cathy Dalnes as the Minnesota School Social Worker of the Year for 2018. Cathy has been a School Social Worker for the Minneapolis School District for 27 years. She has served as a School Social Worker for Kenwood Elementary School, as the District Program Facilitator, and, for the last 10 years the Manager of Social Work Services for the district. Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Augsburg College and a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota. Cathy is Licensed School Social Worker from the Minnesota Department of Education and a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) through the Board of Social Work.

An impressive list of colleagues offered letters of support in Cathy’s nomination. Ethical, compassionate, professional, collaborative, thoughtful and well respected were themes amongst these letters. The letters spoke of her strong belief and advocacy for the role of School Social Workers in schools. Matthew Lau, Manager of Psychological Services described Cathy as “not only one of the best school social workers I have known but also a true leader in the field advocating for the best social work services for students and families.” School Social Worker Dottie Brown added, “She highly values school social work as a profession and sees our work as integral to student success. Cathy is a fierce advocate for school social work and constantly educates district leadership about the work we do and how well we do it.”

Cathy works diligently to recruit and train school social workers who will fit the needs of each school in the Minneapolis district. She currently provides training and supervision for almost 150 district social workers along with providing district-wide training to meet licensure requirements on mental health and suicide prevention; as well as other committees and teams, including the Crisis Response and Recovery Team. Superintendent Ed Graff wrote, “Not only has she realigned her own work by looking at it through an equity lens, she has worked to recruit and retain social workers of color in our very diverse district.” Cathy works with principals across the district when hiring school social workers to identify needed skills to match the individual needs of each school. “It is very clear to me that Cathy has one mission - to provide the best school social work services to students and families and to equip, manage and retain her staff for that mission”; summarized Matthew Lau in his letter of support.

Cathy is also known for her leadership in the field of School Social Work. She works closely with the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College and University of St. Catherine’s to coordinate intern placement in schools and is a guest lecturer for a special education class at the U of M. She also has provided professional development opportunities within her district, principal groups and at Minnesota School Social Work Conferences, including Day at the Hill. She has participated in several task forces, including Governor’s Mental Health Task Force where she spoke about how school social work is an integral part of meeting mental health needs; the FASD Task Force along with MOFAS and the U of M; and with the Minnesota Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act and Educational Model of Mental Health in Schools. She is a Q-comp advisory group member and a grant recipient of the Collaborative Improvement Innovative Network (COIIN) along with a multidisciplinary team to develop a continuum of mental health services. Outside of the United States she had provided presentations to hospital and orphanage staff about working with children with disabilities and their parents in Chongquing, China.

Cathy has also shared her expertise and leadership skills with MSSWA. Cathy has served as the Region 5 Representative, supporting not only school social workers of Minneapolis Public Schools, but also those from neighboring districts in the region. She had also provided professional development opportunities for MSSWA members and legislative advocacy. MSSWA is proud to be recognizing her for this award!

“Visible and Valuable” - That is how Cathy advocates for her social workers to be in their schools. In her advocacy for the profession of school social work Cathy keeps one thing in the forefront - the needs of the children and families of not only Minneapolis Public Schools, but schools across the state. She has a strong commitment to equity and social emotional learning for students and staff. Her belief is that school social workers are vital in bridging the gaps in student success. She encourages her staff to advocate beyond the walls of their schools encouraging participation at Day at the Hill and talking to legislators.

Be visible and show your value for the children and families in your schools!

This fall Cathy will be recognized for her excellence and leadership at the Midwest Fall Conference in Clayton, Missouri and at the MSSWA 50th Anniversary Fall Conference in October. Please celebrate the high level of professionalism of School Social Work throughout the state exemplified by the character and achievement of Cathy Dalnes!

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