Jane-Ellen Gorman always knew that she wanted to work with students, but it wasn't until after she became a teacher that she realized she had a passion for focusing on their emotional and mental health.
"I was always interested in knowing more about the students on a personal level, and it was pretty obvious that there were a lot of other issues that were influencing their ability to learn," she said. These issues included challenges at home, trauma, and mental-health concerns.
As one of two mental health case managers working for SDCOE, Gorman gets to deal with some of these issues while helping families throughout the county.
Gorman and Tamara Peddie-Musser, the other mental health case manager, help facilitate the transition for students who enter residential programs. These are students with serious mental-health needs or self-destructive behavior.
Gorman and Peddie-Musser serve as a liaison between the families, the school district, and the residential programs, which offer integrated programs that include education, therapy, and support with mental health and social skills. In that role, they work with families and districts on individualized educational plans, help IEP teams determine appropriate facilities for students, support the transition into the facility, monitor the care in the facility, and help support the families as the students return home.
"The whole process can be very difficult for parents," she said. "They want them home, but there's some anxiety related to it."
Together, Gorman and Peddie-Musser support about 50 students at a time in all of the school districts in the county except San Diego Unified.
Gorman started her education career years ago as a teacher in New Jersey and Chula Vista. When she had children, she decided to leave the classroom to focus on raising them and return to school. She earned a master's degree in marriage and family therapy and a doctorate in psychology. She chose those degrees in part to learn more about the issues she had seen holding back some of the students she taught years earlier.
She returned to work for the County of San Diego in the children's mental health division, focusing on mental health services for students with special needs. In 2011, requirements for these types of services were transferred from the county to school districts.
Gorman started working for SDCOE in 2012 in a role very similar to the one she had with the county. In her free time, she enjoys reading and walking.
Even after all of these years, she said she still finds working with children and families very rewarding, especially considering some of the challenges faced by the students she supports.
"You see them at their worst," she said. "Then you get to see them grow, learn, mature, and become productive students again. That's the best and most exciting part."