Serving the Profession through Mentorship
When students take on their first professional position after completing their master’s degrees in speech and hearing science with a focus on speech-language pathology, they must also begin what is called a Clinical Fellowship Year, or CFY, required by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) to earn the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP). The CFY pairs a first-year practitioner with an experienced practitioner in a mentoring relationship designed to ease the transition between student and independent provider of clinical services.
Theodora Papastratakos completed her master’s degree in 2015 and her CFY during the 2015-2016 school year, her first with Aldrin Elementary School in Schaumburg.
“You dive right in, which is why you have a clinical fellowship supervisor,” she said. “It’s so different from being in graduate school and doing your clinical externships versus managing your own caseload. It’s a big leap.”
She found her own CFY experience positive, but also knew there were things she would have liked to change. During her first several years of practice at Aldrin Elementary, Theo felt she was still learning so much that she could not supervise a clinical fellowship. In the fall of 2021, the department head reached out to her to see if she’d be willing to supervise a new SLP who would be joining the school part time.
“I’d been practicing for seven years, and I think I realized that I do know a lot,” she said. “I was excited to share some of that knowledge with somebody coming into the field.”
She took the training course offered by ASHA and welcomed May 2021 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign SHS graduate Rachel Deichstetter to Aldrin Elementary as her first mentee. Some of Theo’s role involved just being available to Rachel to answer questions, walk her through district policies and procedures, and give feedback on her ideas.
“I would review her goals and the reports that she was writing and help her as needed,” Theo said. “I watched some of her therapy sessions and gave her feedback throughout the year. If she was experiencing something for the first time, I might help a little bit more. Toward the end of the year, she was practicing independently.”
Theo enjoyed assisting with Rachel’s transition from student to professional and working with someone fresh out of graduate school. “It was fun to see her gain more confidence throughout the year,” she said. “Sometimes when you’ve been practicing for a while, you get stuck in what you’re doing. Rachel brought fresh ideas and new ways of doing things.”
Theo will continue working at Aldrin Elementary while Rachel joins another school in the Schaumburg district for 2022-2023. “I’ll remain a resource for her in the future if she has questions or needs to bounce ideas off someone,” she said. She looks forward to her next opportunity to supervise a clinical fellow and mentor another budding speech-language pathologist into the profession.