Rocky Heights Middle School's Dr. Peter Thompson named "Colorado School Psychologist of the Year"
CASTLE ROCK – The Colorado Society of School Psychologists (CSSP) named Dr. Peter Thompson, the school psychologist at Rocky Heights Middle School and Traumatic Brain Injury Coordinator for the Douglas County School District, the Colorado School Psychologist of the Year.
"It is with great respect and humility that I accept this honor not just for me, but also for my district and for the students I serve," said Thompson. "Douglas County is more than just the place I work, it is my home and where I make my life. If I am able to attain an award of such stature, it is because of the remarkable professionals I work with who have supported my enduring passion to help children."
This is Thompson’s eleventh year with DCSD. When he was first hired by the District he had to visit several schools within the course of a week.
“I started at the Kindergarten level on Monday and by Friday I would be at the high school,” Thompson explained. “I would see the whole scope of human development. Monday morning I would walk into kindergarten and maybe I would work with a kid who was showing some behavior problems. By Friday I’m with 16 to 17 year old kids. I saw the whole gambit of human development.”
Eventually he had the opportunity to be on the teams that opened both Rock Canyon High School and Rocky Heights Middle School, where he remains today.
"I can say that Dr. Thompson is more than just a 'school psychologist' as he is a vital member of the RHMS family," said Principal Mike Loitz. "Parents, students, and staff alike turn to him for guidance and advice in a myriad of areas. All of Rocky Heights Middle School would like to congratulate Dr. Thompson on an honor well deserved and long overdue."
Calling, Not a Career
Thompson holds various advanced degrees in educational psychology, school psychology and school-neuropsychology. He is a Nationally Certified School-Neuropsychologist. What makes him stand out; however, is the way he views his role as a school psychologist as more than just a career.
“I’ll put in the 10-12 hours a day, because the job needs to be done and ready,” Thompson explained. “It’s not a job to me, it’s a calling.”
He says he’s been blessed to work for leaders both at a school and district level that have allowed him to expand the horizons of his position.
“They see me as someone they can leave to my own devices and when I have that type of freedom to come and go and to do what I need to do, they know that I’m going to do my job and I’m going to over-do it,” Thompson said.
That initiative has been shown in his work on teams that crafted the District’s Threat Assessment and Protocol following the tragedy at Columbine High School and the development of a Brain Injury team.
Brain Trauma Team
Over the past nine years, he and DCSD’s Director of Health Services, Paulette Joswick, have worked to build a cross-District network that identifies and treats students with brain injuries. Now, they’re working to ensure each and every school has its own team focused on this work, consisting of school nurses, psychologists, social workers, counselors and speech language specialists.
The team has become an example for other Districts throughout the state, which are just beginning to address the danger of concussions in sports and elsewhere.
“That is far, far ahead any one else I’m aware of,” Thompson said.
Because of this leadership, Thompson and Joswick were asked to join the State Traumatic Brain Injury Network steering committee and become contributing authors with numerous Colorado Department of Education publications.
Varied Background Provides Broad Vision
Given Thompson’s aptitude in psychology, you might be surprised to find out that this wasn’t his first career. After finishing his grad work, while serving in the Army, he was a commodity analyst in the financial world and a teacher working with at-risk kids in New Orleans.
Thompson says those experiences have provided him a broad vision that he uses every day.
“I’m constantly bringing in my other experiences into my job, which is very helpful,” Thompson said.
Colorado School Psychologist of the Year
The formal announcement will be made at the CSSP conference in November. The selection process for the award began with open nominations from the community earlier this year.
“To be honored in a group of so many skilled practitioners [in Douglas County]; its’ very humbling,” Thompson said.
He will now compete at the national level. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) will name the winner at their annual conference on February 18-21, 2014 in Washington, DC.