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“It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

School social worker learns self-care is critical to the job.

Armed with a fresh master’s degree, Mandi Wansley was excited to dig in when she landed a job as a social worker for MNPS. Through no fault of her own, however, it was a less-than-ideal start.

Mandi began in December 2019 — the middle of the school year — and had to pick up the previous social worker’s caseload mid-stride. Still, she was eager to make a difference in students’ lives.


When tornadoes ripped through Nashville a few months later, destroying homes, churches and workplaces, and upending many lives, her job grew more complicated. Then COVID-19 erupted and quickly swelled into pandemic proportions. Mandi and her colleagues were faced with challenges none of them were prepared for.

As Mandi worked against the odds to provide counseling for students and meet their other needs, something became clear. If she wanted to be effective: “I need to be in a good place.”


“It was a new job, and it was a challenge,” she says. “I was like, okay,
I really need to get some help.”


As a social worker herself, the idea of counseling was already on her radar. She’d gotten emails about the Connect with Karla® virtual therapy program at work and heard more from colleagues. She thought it was something she’d pursue “someday.”

But as her challenges mounted, she quit putting it off and signed up. Initially, she was concerned about her sessions being virtual. She needn’t have worried.


“Actually, it started out great,” Mandi continues. “My therapist is incredible. She really made me feel comfortable from the beginning. And she talked me through what we were about to embark upon.”


Along with navigating anxiety, stress and other issues, Mandi’s therapist helped her deal with unresolved grief involving the sudden death of a person she deeply cared for. 


“I had gotten overwhelmed with emotion,” she says.


Mandi is still early in her work with the therapist but plans to continue. She already feels better about her own contributions to the school system and its students.

“It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made,” she says. “I’m here today, and I feel like I’ve made really good progress learning to navigate.”


Mandi Wansley

MNPS school social worker

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