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Social worker's innovation earns him state recognition

May 17, 2010|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Morgan County Schools social worker Gary McDaniel was chosen as the state's Social Worker of the Year for 2010 by the West Virginia Department of Education for a good reason.

McDaniel has introduced innovative programs to help kids succeed, and it's working. He was nominated by Morgan County Schools co-workers, he said.

His boss agrees.

"Gary's strength is his innovative approach to taking on challenges," said Morgan County Schools Superintendent David Banks. "He's exceptional at keeping the focus on what's best for kids, especially when working on the connection between family and school."

"I get right to the issue," McDaniel said. "I treat the person in their environment."

McDaniel created and introduced programs at Widmyer Elementary, Warm Springs Intermediate and Warm Springs Middle schools, he said.

"It's working together as a whole team," he said.

He provided crisis-prevention intervention training to staff and the school bus drivers at Warm Springs Intermediate School and Pleasant View Elementary School. He said he also trained a team at Paw Paw, W.Va., schools and at Widmyer Elementary School.

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A Flexible Learning Environment was introduced at the elementary school level this year, he said.

Widmyer Principal Rick Weber, Assistant Principal Ginnie Molnar and McDaniel created the program, he said.

If a student's behavior is too disruptive, instead of ending up in a home-bound environment, that student is placed in the flexible learning environment at the school.

It gives him or her a chance to get emotions under control and be able to return to the regular classroom, he said.

Students in the flexible learning environment might stay for a day, a week or a year, McDaniel said.

The plan is to introduce flexible learning to the intermediate school next year, he said.

He also leads a parent-child academy at Widmyer. Kids, parents and siblings come together to meet with McDaniel to discuss issues that are keeping the student from succeeding.

He said he focuses on teaching good parenting, discipline and positive behavior support, as well as nutrition, exercise and family activities.

At Warm Springs Middle School, McDaniel introduced group work last year. Middle school students are a lot more social and have more peer pressure, he said.

"They help each other to be successful with self-esteem and conflict issues," he said.

Group work began this year at Paw Paw schools, he said.

McDaniel comes from Morgan County and is a 1979 Berkeley Springs High School graduate.

Heis a licensed independent clinical social worker who worked for 10 years at East Ridge Health Systems, and as a contractor with Warm Springs Middle School before he became a full-time employee.

McDaniel said he received a Blenko glass vase from the state Department of Education, "but now I have a platform to talk about what we do here and to talk about how we can help kids succeed."

"It has only been three short years that he has been employed as a full-time social worker. Now we don't know what we'd do without him," Banks said.

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