Date of Submission

Summer 7-25-2017

Document Type



Doctor of Education



OIP Defense Chair

Dr. Elan Paulson


adolescent mental health, teacher capacity in student mental health, community of practice, professional collaboration, teacher leadership, servant leadership, parallel leadership



Increasing rates of adolescent anxiety and depression present new challenges for educators. This requires educators to increase their capacity to meet the unique learning needs of students with mental health concerns. The Organizational Improvement Plan (OIP) explores this problem of practice, targeting improved teacher ability to understand student mental health, to recognize the signs of distress, and to employ teaching strategies and practices to accommodate learning needs. The notion that academic functioning is tied to mental health functioning in a bi-directional relationship (Powers, Bower, Webber & Martinson, 2011) underscores the need for teachers to be equipped with a greater skill set than what is currently offered through pre-service training and professional development. The OIP leverages existing structures in a self-directed learning model to create communities of practice where mental health literacy and teaching strategies are learned and practiced in a collaborative learning environment.

Employing a hybrid model integrating teacher, servant, and parallel leadership, improved teacher capacity in student mental health becomes a school improvement goal, aligning school vision with daily practices and all student-teacher interactions. Mental health is newly understood as a learning need consistent with those accommodated through Individual Education Plans, challenging the social stigma and other variables that have impaired the academic trajectory of students with anxiety and depression in the past. Relying on professional collaboration, school vision and shared moral purpose, the change plan hopes to improve academic outcomes - through improved school culture and teacher capacity - for students faced with mental health challenges.