Creating Mentally Healthy Learning Environments in Dental Hygiene Education

Guest Speaker | Leora Wolf-Prusan


More and more, our students are surfacing and experiencing big events and activating experiences—issues with mental health and distress that many of us in the teaching and educating profession are now supporting. And, the adage of “leave your personal stuff at the door” no longer bears neuroscientific holding; we know that what we go through outside the office impacts how we show up to the office. What happens when our college community -on or off campus-community experiences an event, either natural (like a flood or fire) or structural (like civil unrest or protest)? How might we better understand the anatomy of regulation, trauma, mental health, resilience, wellness so that we can better support our students, ourselves, and each other?

Join us for a timely, relevant and dynamic workshop where together we explore the ways in which we can build cultures and learning environments of wellness, not only for our students, but for us as faculty and staff as well. We examine classroom coping strategies, we practice communication skills and conflict resolution strategies necessary in response to a traumatic event, we examine theory, practice, and share with one another regional and national approaches that keep us in this work not only surviving, but also thriving.

Learning Objectives/Outcomes
  1. Understand how the mental health needs of students are connected to academic success;
  2. Learn one’s role – as faculty, staff, administrators, students and campus community member in addressing mental health and wellness of students;
  3. Learn skills and strategies for providing early prevention and intervention assistance for student mental health issues appropriate to one’s role
  4. Identify signs and behavioral indicators for potential mental health consultation including prevention and early intervention.
  5. Gain & practice at least 3 effective problem-solving strategies for working with students (including non-violent communication strategies)

General agenda:
  • Welcome, introductions, connections
  • Level setting: defining the work in front and ahead of us (definitions, language, theoretical frameworks)
  • Self & Collective Care
  • Pedagogical practice-when things are fine, when things are not fine: readiness, response and recovery
  • Break out groups-Applying the work:
    • Nonviolent communication & problem solving techniques
    • Referral pathways-identifying resources and support structures for our students
    • Self & collective care planning
    • Trauma informed and resilience oriented principles, competencies and skills
  • Reflection & Close


Leora Wolf-Prusan is the Director of Partnerships & Teaching at the Center for Applied Research Solutions.  Her work includes serving as the School Mental Health Lead for the Pacific Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, a project of SAMHSA that provides no-cost professional development to support the school mental health workforce in the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, California, Nevada & Arizona. She formerly served as the field director for a SAMHSA Now is the Time Initiative, ReCAST (Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma), which involves providing support to the 10 grantee cities and counties as they build city-based resiliency plans to respond to civil unrest due to community-based trauma. In addition to these national grants, she provides consulting and training for numerous other clients around issues related to school climate and positive youth development, educator mental health & wellness, and trauma-informed approaches to education.

Operating through a framework in which public health, social work, and education intersect, her research examines how teachers cognitively appraise the gang/gun-related deaths of students, what factors contribute to teachers building resiliency, and what supports teachers need from the school system in the event of a student homicide or other traumas. Prior to joining CARS, Wolf-Prusan served as a school climate specialist for WestEd’s Health & Human Development program as well as an educator and school site leadership coach in a variety of education settings, primarily focusing on college and career-going culture in urban high school contexts. She is a well-received trainer, facilitator, public speaker and educator.

She received a BA in international relations and a BA in Spanish with a minor in Social & Ethnic Relations from the University of California, Davis; a teaching credential from Mills College; and an EdD in educational leadership from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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