Tragedies lead to new curriculum

Recently promoted to full time professor, Melissa Reeves hopes to integrate her experiences with the Columbine and Sandy Hook shooting into her teaching

One of Winthrop’s own was a witness to the aftermath of the infamous Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings.

Melissa Reeves, Ph.D has been promoted to a full-time position as an associate professor in psychology, and plans to use her experiences to benefit her students as she takes on her new role.

Reeves has been at Winthrop for ten years, but this is the first year that she is here as a full time, tenure-track professor.

She said that she decided to make the change because she “loves the focus on students and teaching. While research is important, my true passion really is teaching students and that student engagement piece which is what’s awesome about this university, because that is really the focal point.”

Reeve’s specialty is in school crisis prevention, intervention and response. She said that this specialty grew out of her time working with the victims of the Columbine shooting.

At the time, Reeves was a school psychologist in Denver, Colorado and after the shooting had occurred she and other school psychologists in the area were called upon to help the victims cope with the incident.

“I was assigned to one of the local emergency rooms waiting areas to help some of the students that had been congregated and family members.Then, the following day, I was assigned to one of the elementary schools to help those students and staff members cope. That really kind of began my passion when we realized how underprepared all of us were. Even though I have a masters degree in counseling, crisis response is very different than counseling therapy and that is what really led into the prepare curriculum that I developed with some colleagues was realizing that some schools were very unprepared and unequipped to deal with crises in general,” Reeves said.

The Prepare Curriculum is a curriculum that Reeves co-authored with other members of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) that is designed to prepare people to deal with crises. The curriculum was inspired by the Columbine shooting, however Reeves said that “was on a magnitude that nobody could have predicted at the time, but our curriculum even covers suicides, car accidents, bus accidents, death by long term illness, a lot of different things and realizing that a lot of our training programs didn’t have those things in them.”

Some of Reeves’ other accomplishments include being the former chair of the NASP School Safety and Response Committee and former President of the National Association of School Psychologists (2016-2017). Reeves is a nationally certified school psychologist, licensed special education teacher, licensed professional counselor and former district coordinator of social/emotional/behavioral services.

Along with these accomplishments and her work with the Columbine victims, Reeves has and continues to work with some of the mothers who lost their children during the Sandy Hook shooting.

“I do a lot of work with Michelle Gay who lost her daughter Josephine. We have done a lot of advocacy work, we have done a lot of professional development together, and she created her own foundation called Safe and Sound Schools with Alyssa Parker, another mom who lost her daughter. We are just really all about joining those parents and helping to promote school safety and crisis preparedness from a multidisciplinary perspective,” Reeves said.

Reeves also travels nationally and internationally to share her curriculum with others, teaching people school crisis prevention, intervention and the impact of trauma on academic achievement.

Her drive to work in psychology, especially with an emphasis on education, has grown out of a class Reeves took her senior year in high school.

“It actually started in high school. I always just kind of had a passion for helping other people .When i was a senior in high school, I volunteered for a peer mentoring program where I mentored students in the special education so I really got into both psychology and special education,” she said.

In terms of bringing her vast array of unique professional experience into her new job as a full time professor, Reeves said, “I really want to be able to do is to integrate my areas of expertise more into the undergraduate curriculum as well as the graduate school psychology curriculum. I would like to be able to eventually develop some specific courses in trauma and looking how that impacts social development, academic development and cognitive development. In that course I would really be able to bring in some of my expertise in the crisis and trauma arena into the curriculum and better equip our students that are going to be going out there to work in the education and mental health field to understand better the impact that that can have on so many different areas of development, the adult world and how that has an impact on their abilities to form relationships and in the occupational world and what that means. I want to bring a more worldly knowledge base into my teaching.”

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