By Amanda Dyslin
The Free Press
When a tragedy such as the death of a student occurs in Mankato Area Public Schools, school psychologists spring into action using a system of crisis management that has been in place for many years.
Virginia Nimmo — the department chair who has been a leader in the district for 25 years — spearheaded the efforts to implement that system.
In 1998, Nimmo attended a week-long training session for the National Organization for Victim Assistance and brought what she learned back to the district. Using those tools, Nimmo and others began developing the district manual for crisis management so that psychologists can help students and staff “begin the process of healing” when the unthinkable happens.
“I think I’ve always had an interest in helping people after they’ve experienced some kind of loss,” Nimmo said. “That’s always been something that I’ve felt a need to be a part of.”
This example of leadership, as well as numerous others, resulted in Nimmo being selected as this year’s Ysseldyke Best Practices Award winner. The award goes to those whose principles, standards and dedication have enhanced the field of school psychology.
John Klaber, district director of special education, said Nimmo is the perfect candidate for the award. Klaber has known Nimmo since college, having taken an undergraduate class together and then ending up in the same psychology graduate school program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
“There were a couple of folks in the class who were head and shoulders above the rest, and Ginny was one of them,” Klaber said.
When Nimmo came to work in Mankato schools in 1987, Klaber said she continued to set that example. Whenever Klaber looks at new candidates to fill psychology positions in the district, the question he always asks himself is: “Can they be as good as Ginny?”
“She’s our model,” he said.
Nimmo, who is based mostly at West High School, also mentors and supports the 10 other psychologists in the district, Klaber said. And she is recognized statewide as an advocate for children’s and adolescents’ mental health needs.
The award, presented by the Minnesota Association of School Psychologists, is named for Jim Ysseldyke, a University of Minnesota professor of educational psychology and associate dean for research in the College of Education and Human Development.
The association board generates the candidates for the award, and took into consideration all of Nimmo’s accomplishments and service, including serving on state committees and as a former president of the state School Psychologists Association.
When Nimmo learned she had received the prestigious award, she said she was shocked.
“I was pretty speechless,” she said. “I was very surprised and very humbled.”