Milton Elementary social worker earns national honors

Gloria Ho named School Social Worker of the Year
April 1, 2024

Milton Elementary school social worker Gloria Ho is quick to include her district counterparts in any discussion about her recent national award.

“This national recognition reflects the hard work that all my colleagues are doing in public education right now,” she said. “I feel that they inspire me. I love how excited Cape has been about the award. It’s a reflection of what all of us are doing.”

Ho was recognized as the School Social Worker of the Year by the School Social Work Association of America at its national conference March 15 in Baltimore.

The award is presented to a school social worker who has demonstrated commitment to the profession through advocacy and the development of programs that impact the lives of students, families, staff and the community. 

In turn, Ho acknowledges the passing of House Bills 100 and 300 that have dedicated funding in the governor’s budget to expand mental health services in Delaware elementary and middle schools.

“Since the pandemic, mental health funding is more important than ever,” she said. “At Milton Elementary, any student that needs mental health services is getting the support they need.”

Ho said the school team includes a counselor and school psychologist. Through state funding, Milton Elementary qualifies for a family and student interventionist, she said; H.O. Brittingham has also qualified for this position, both due to a historical percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunches.

“So, we have a fully staffed mental health team, which is the goal for all public schools in Delaware,” she said.

Each staff member plays a different role, she said, with each professional bringing their respective education, training and background in their approach to mental health services.

As a social worker, Ho manages a caseload of students; provides individual and group counseling; oversees students who do not have fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residences; responds to crisis interventions; performs risk assessments; and links families to community resources for clothing, food and housing needs.

The school counselor oversees school-wide data collection and collaborates with teachers to manage social-emotional lessons, run restorative circles and provide group counseling. 

The school psychologist concentrates on students who have IEPs or behavior intervention plans, and provides psychological assessments, individual counseling and family support.

Mental health partnerships with outside agencies allow their therapists to work with students within the school setting to help them process trauma and more severe issues outside the scope of Milton Elementary's team, she said.

Within Milton Elementary, families have access to a food pantry, backpack supply program and Basic Needs Closet sponsored by the Lt. Governor’s office to provide book bags, school supplies, winter coats, hats, gloves and more for students.

In 2022, the Delaware State Education Association appointed Ho as its National Education Association director, and she also became the first school social worker in Delaware to earn national certification through the SSWAA by creating a portfolio demonstrating her mastery of national practice competencies. 

In addition to her work in the school, Ho is a founding member and a past co-president of the School Social Workers Association of Delaware, for whom she currently serves as an executive board member. She is also a board member of the Harry K Foundation and serves on the Cape Community Minority Liaison Committee.

She received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and master’s degree in social work, both from West Virginia University, and joined Milton Elementary in 2005 as one of the area’s first school social workers.

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