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Devereux Center for Effective Schools’ Dr. Brittany Zakszeski receives prestigious national awards


Devereux Center for Effective Schools Training and Consulting Specialist Brittany Zakszeski, Ph.D., NCSP, recently received awards from the American Psychological Foundation and the National Association of School Psychologists.

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Center for Effective Schools (CES) Training and Consulting Specialist Brittany Zakszeski, Ph.D., NCSP, was recently recognized by the American Psychological Foundation (APF) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) for her work in examining ways to reduce challenging behaviors in children.

Zakszeski received the two national awards noted below:

“We are incredibly proud of Brittany, and want to congratulate her on receiving these prestigious awards,” said Devereux Center for Effective Schools Director and Health Service Psychology Internship Director of Training Barry McCurdy, Ph.D., NCSP, BCBA-D. “We wish her the best as she documents the efficacy of the “Calm Cat” program, and applaud her efforts examining the need to train teachers on how to use effective praise to improve student behavior in the classroom. Her innovative and high-quality research on both of these important topics can help students achieve social, emotional and academic success.”

Helping students develop relaxation skills

Zakszeski plans to use the APF grant to partner with local elementary schools and evaluate the effectiveness of the “Calm Cat” early intervention program, which is designed to help educators teach relaxation skills, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation, to students with, or at risk for developing, emotional disorders.

“I want to thank the APF for awarding me this generous grant. The ‘Calm Cat’ program holds great promise for schools because it can be implemented by a variety of staff members, not just those who are trained in providing behavioral healthcare services, and it can be taught to young children, including those for whom other approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, might be too developmentally advanced,” Brittany explained. “At each school, we will train staff on this program and conduct universal screenings of students’ emotional and behavioral risks. Students who are identified as being at risk for developing emotional disorders will be eligible to participate in ‘Calm Cat.’”

Training, supporting teachers

Zakszeski’s paper presentation that earned recognition from the NASP – “Train Smarter, Not Harder: Multi-Tiered Systems of Professional Development Supports” – focused on her research study examining the rates of praise and corrective statements teachers provide to students.

In 2019, Zakszeksi, a then-CES doctoral intern, was selected as Devereux’s Savin Scholar Award winner for her research study, which suggested that effective classroom management is key to preventing negative school outcomes, such as behavioral challenges, academic delays and peer difficulties, for all students.

“I am honored to receive this award from the NASP, and excited to see my line of research recognized not only within Devereux, but also within the field of school psychology,” Zakszeski noted. “I believe it is critical we support teachers’ classroom management practices to facilitate social-emotional learning and appropriate student behavior. My co-presenters and I closed our presentation by encouraging school psychologists and others to consider how they can help train and support educators in their own settings in using effective praise and corrective statements with their students.”

Learn more about the Devereux Center for Effective Schools, and learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.


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