When Melissa left the classroom after twenty years as a classroom teacher, she knew that she wanted to support kids and families in a different capacity. Enter Educational Therapy!
Q. Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think or hope it would lead you?
A. As I learned more about educational therapy, the breadth of the training really appealed to me. Not only would I be learning about strategies for supporting a diverse variety of learners, I would be learning about the social and emotional impacts of learning differences and neurodiversity. The holistic view of children and learning has always been integral to my philosophy as an educator, and the field of educational therapy really affirms that.
Q. Now that you are out of the classroom, what are you currently doing?
A. I am the K-4 Educational Therapist and SEL Teacher at The San Francisco School in San Francisco, CA. I work on a student support team that also includes learning specialists, a middle school counselor, and a nurse.
I'm also a graduate school supervisor for the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI), advising graduate student teachers getting their credential and Master’s degrees.
In all of my free time (!), I maintain a small educational therapy private practice and blog through CognitionSF.
Q. What have been some of the most exciting or rewarding moments of your career so far?
A. In my current position at The San Francisco School, one of the things I get to do is combine two of my great loves: SEL (social-emotional learning) and improv! Outside of -- but also intertwined with -- my career as an educator is my career as a professional improvisor and nonprofit theater owner.
People who practice improv of any kind (including musical improvisation, like jazz) have long known about the social, emotional, and cognitive benefits it provides. In recent years, there has been exciting scientific research demonstrating those same benefits. Improv training has started showing up in many workplaces, and it's a great joy to incorporate it into my work with children.
At school, that can look like a small social skills group doing targeted games and exercises to build specific skills (impulse inhibition, taking turns, entering and sustaining play, etc.); teaching games to an entire class to build skills like flexible thinking, brainstorming, cooperation, non-judgmental reactions, and more, while debriefing the deeper meaning of each game with the kids; leading a parent/guardian workshop in which adults learn exercises to help kids have a growth mindset; or sharing improv-based games with teachers that build important writing skills.
Q. Was there a particular department, staff member, or instructor memorable to your experience with UCR University Extension?
A. I thought all of my professors were great in their own ways, especially considering we were mostly learning asynchronously. Dr. Yxtian Gutierrez really stood out for his level of dedication to his students. He really went above and beyond in how thoroughly he communicated about assignments, how generous he was with his office hours (especially considering he was also the mayor of Moreno Valley at the same time!), and how hard he worked to create a sense of classroom community in a virtual class.
Combining passions isn’t something everyone gets to do in their lives or careers. When Melissa shared her story about taking her teaching skills out of the classroom and into the theater, we were impressed. She’s an experienced teacher who is also a professional improvisor, and felt that social-emotional learning and improv were perfect partners. She was right. Non-profit theater owner, educator, improv artist, and Educational Therapist, Melissa has found her life’s joy. She’s ready to help you and your family.
Get to know more about Melissa and her amazing therapy, coaching and social group services. Reach out to her at www.cognitionsf.com.
Melissa Holman-Kursky, Educational Therapist & SEL Teacher, The San Francisco School
Graduate School Supervisor, Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI)
Owner, The Un-Scripted Theater Co.
BA Drama & English, Tufts University
MA (dual) Child Development & Education, Tufts University
Graduate, UCR University Extension
Professional Certificate in Educational Therapy
Private Educational Therapy Practice & Blog: CognitionSF