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Penny Rayas, MFT
Penny Rayas, MFT, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  I have 20 years experience in the mental health field
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I am a special education teachers aide. For 9 years, I worked

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I am a special education teacher’s aide. For 9 years, I worked at the elementary level and then was transferred to the middle school level. Unfortunately, the head of the special education department can transfer teacher aides & teaching assistants (and on rare occasion, teachers) to a different building within the district at any time (seniority only plays a role in the case of layoffs) and we’re powerless against that. I suffer from severe anxiety issues, therefore change is very difficult for me. Fortunately, I found that for me, working with special needs middle school students is far less stressful than working with special needs elementary school students, which made for a smooth transition.

I suffer from depression as well as anxiety, but since being assigned to the middle school 3 years ago, those issues have decreased significantly (immensely more than they did with medication & counseling). The transfer turned out to be a God send for me. I’ve found that working with the middle school students is a great fit for me! My mental health has improved tremendously and I’m happier now, than I’ve been in a long time. The transfer was a God send! It really helped pull me out of my depression and greatly enriched my life. I’ve built many strong relationships there... stronger than most of my other relationships. I feel that I finally found where I belong. My place of employment has become like a 2nd home to me and I actually look forward to going into work more than I look forward to my vacation days!

Since being transferred to the middle school, I had been assigned to work one on one with a young girl with multiple disabilities. I had built a very strong bond with her. This past late February, she passed away very unexpectedly. I was devastated and overwhelmed with grief. I don’t have any children of my own, so my students are especially dear to me... especially this young girl whom I worked so closely with, as she was like the daughter I never had. My colleagues were (and continue to be) extremely instrumental in helping cope with the heartache of losing her, which still freshly exists within me (I've been dreaming of her a lot lately too). I don’t how I’d be functioning without the support of my colleagues who knew/worked with her for the last 3 years of her life as I did.

Though I will not be transferred for the rest of this school year, I’m petrified of being transferred in the new school year. Being assigned to the middle school had a huge positive impact on my life. It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Moreover, several fond memories of my former student dwell within that building. I am now overwhelmed with anxiety about those things being taken from me. I can’t sleep, I’m shaky, I’m having trouble staying focused, my stomach is in knots, etc. I’m intensely fearful of falling back into that enduring, deep state of depression.

I know someone who isn’t able to work because of her social anxiety issues and is receiving financial help from the government because of that. I know someone else who was able to get out of jury duty because of her anxiety issues. So... my question is... Have you ever heard of people being legally released from certain obligations because of their mental health issues? If so, do you think that it’s possible for me to obtain legal documentation that will prevent the head of the special education dept. from transferring me to a different building within the district due to my severe anxiety/depression issues, in order to prevent them from worsening?
Hello there, I would like to help. I also work with teenagers in the school system and have met many great teachers like you who connect with students and make a difference. I am glad you have a support system. Yes you can apply for state disability and go back to work from the disability with a letter from your psychiatrist asking you to return to work with accomodetions do to your anxiety. Your MD can also place you on medical leave. It may be a long process it takes months but since the school year if over you can be placed on disability and you get 55% of your salary. You will be able to go back when your psychiatrist tell them it is ok and he can write a letter for you. I think your request is very responable. You can take time to heal yourself
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for your reply. Going on disability/medical leave was never a thought nor an option for me. It's not that I'm suicidal or anything to that extreme that I need time to heal from before I can continue working. Right now, as I said, I am doing very well where I'm at. I do not wish to stop working (that would only make matters worse)... that’s not the issue. My colleagues and the fact that I love my job, are the only reasons that I am able to cope with the loss of my student as well as I am and that my depression & anxieties have significantly decreased. My anxieties are only very high right now because of the realization that I could possibly be taken from the very people/things that have held me together emotionally. I'm afraid of those severe anxiety/depression issues returning worse than they were before if I am transferred out of my present building. In that case, my anxieties could really become an issue. I'm trying to prevent that from occurring at all. I'm not currently seeing any health professional, but I can seek one out if I need to. Can I get a letter from a psychiatrist without going on disability? Also, does it need to be a psychiatrist or can it be an MD or other mental health professional?

Hello there yes if you don't need to go on disability you can get a letter from your therapist or your psychiatrist what can explain why you need accomodetions, and what would happen if you were to be removed and placed in a different school. I think your MD can also say that you are suffering from grief and that is theraputic to keep you where your support system is, and also talk about what would happened if they move you. I never understood why administration does not keep the teachers and teacher's aids in one school. From my side it is very hard on the children to change aids as often as they do. I see that you do not have supportive administation. Write a sample letter for your doctor and ask him to right and sign one for you. I hope you are placed in the school you like with the coworkers who are supportive.


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

You are absolutely right! Kids... especially those with special needs, need stability and though the administration pretend to do what's in the best interest of the students, rarely do they actually do that. In reality, they just do whatever they want to do. It's all about saving money and having special connections with certain people, rather than which staff members work best with which students and what the students needs are. They don't even bother to ask the staff who actually know the students and their needs, which staff work best where and with whom or how they can best accommodate the students' needs. They make decisions that having nothing to do with the students' best interest because they don't even know the students. It's aggravating!


Allowing staff who exhibit jubilance in working in a particular building with a certain age group of students to continue doing so (whenever possible), greatly helps to ensure the preservation of ambition and dedication for/to premium work performance from them, thus maintain a positive and productive learning environment for the students and ultimately build a foundation for happy, successful students. I truly believe that the staff who feel a strong predilection for every aspect of their job (as I do), are the cornerstone of that foundation. A positive working relationship amongst school staff creates an atmosphere of a joyful, content staff, which plays a vital role in the provision of a pleasant learning environment for the students and is bound to enhance the students’ learning, thus help them to excel both academically and socially, which is expected to be the main objective of every teacher/supportive staff member. In contrast, if a staff member is not happy in their position, it's bound to negatively reflect onto their students (as they pick up on tension) and negatively affect their job performance (even if not intentionally). Unfortunately, administration doesn't bother to think that way. They just like to do things that don't make sense!


Anyway, thank you so much for your answer. I already sent the head of the special ed. department a letter about my concerns and spoke with the building principal (though she said that she isn't really the main decision maker about staff placements, but I think that she does have at least some say in the matter). I'm hoping that that helps. I was thinking about sending a copy of the letter that I sent to the head of the special ed. dept. to the superintendent, but I'm not sure if that would be a good idea or not. I'm also going to talk with my doctor/a therapist as you suggested. The only other thing I can do, is to continue to pray about it.

Thanks again for your help. I greatly appreciate it! God Bless! :)



It is my pleasure to work with you and other teachers and teacher's aids that make the difference in our schools. I hope one day administration will focus on the students and the teachers and stop focusing on test scores. Take care and keep doing the great job you are
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Hello there, this is Penny. I am wondering how things are going for you?

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