After graduating from the Social Work program at SDSU, Debbie Boerbaitz began her career as a medical social worker, working at The Elizabeth Hospice; where she had the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of grief and loss. After working at the hospice for a few months, she had the opportunity to put her PPS credential to use and obtained a part-time job at Otay Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD). Within a year working there, the teachers advocated to hire her full-time. During the 16.5 years of working at the school and growing professionally, as the school social work profession itself was evolving, she was able to develop and integrate new frameworks and interventions to support students, families and school staff. Utilizing a multi-tiered systems of support model, Debbie implemented programming at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels to increase accessibility for every student to benefit from social emotional learning. Over time Debbie developed a field placement and supported interns, further increasing the access to school social work programming, including weekly social emotional psychoeducation and bullying prevention sessions in every classroom.
In 2005, Debbie received her LCSW. The process of pursuing and obtaining licensure provided an enhanced lens for clinical assessment and intervention. Debbie characterizes the school as a “microcosm of society,” where student, family and community needs and concerns are apparent and can be supported and addressed. In the past year, Debbie transitioned to becoming a district social worker and the internship program coordinator, supporting the CVESD social work team. In developing the internship program, the district is able to provide services for additional at risk students and contribute to developing a positive school climate. Debbie says that the district social work team loves working with interns, “it’s rewarding for us to know that we are supporting the development of new social work professionals, while they in turn are helping students and families; it is truly a labor of love.” Debbie also mentions that none of this could be possible without the amazing support from the school district administration. She says that they “are extremely fortunate to have a district that supports our professional programming.” On top of what Debbie does for CVESD, for the past 17 years she has been an active member of the California Association of School Social Workers (CASSW), and for the past 3 years served as the Regional Coordinator for San Diego.
Debbie finished by stating “I really embrace the MSW degree because it gives us opportunities to work in many different ways. I believe in being a life-long learner and always growing. Students who are currently in the program will benefit from perceiving everything in their personal and professional lives as a learning experience that will ultimately help them to serve clients with greater empathy and wisdom.” She also encourages students to recognize that the “social work community is close in San Diego and that the students in your program will be your future colleagues, so develop positive collegial relationships and stay in touch!”
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Written by Emerald Flores, MSW student