FEBRUARY 20-22, 2024

    PBIS and Mental Health Conference



    This year's Mental Health in Schools Conference was sponsored byDesert Mountain AHEC


  • Tara Brown

    Known as ‘The Connection Coach’, Tara Brown is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker whose 30-year professional journey has taken her from rural Florida to gang territory in California and to one of the largest high schools in Tennessee with over 43 countries represented. Her international engagements have included Dubai and Beirut, training both educators and students.  Tara believes strongly in the power of connections and that a major key to reaching kids is the ability to build positive relationships.  Whether here or abroad, Tara’s passion and humor continues to drive her work to better equip adults with the ability to connect with youth in order to unleash their true potential. She is committed to helping strengthen organizations ‘One connection at a time’. 

    TOPIC: Embracing The Power of Your Leadership Footprint

    It has been said that ‘we never touch another so lightly that we do not leave a trace’. In this humorous, inspirational keynote, Tara emphasizes that we are all leaders in some capacity, regardless of title or position, and that kids are constantly seeking leaders who they can follow. Through powerful stories of her time spent both teaching and coaching diverse populations, Tara emphasizes the importance of embracing intentional actions that will inspire and motivate. Characteristics of great leaders will be discussed and attendees will take away tremendous encouragement with which to embrace the power of their leadership footprint on a daily basis.

  • Layne Pethick

    Layne Pethick is an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Behavior Consultant for Region 10 ESC. He has a PhD in Business/Organization Leadership (with an earned MBA) and has a Master’s degree in Special Education with concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, and Human Behavior, along with degrees in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education, and Reading. Layne has experience as a general and special education teacher, school administrator, district trainer, program director, and in higher education as a professor of special education, assessment, early childhood and teacher education. He has and continues to work with various countries in the areas of education and special education to include Mexico (2009-2011), Hong Kong (2009), Canada (currently), Vietnam (currently), and across the United States (currently).

    TOPIC: Mental Health and Trauma Brain Research: Better Understanding for Better Support and Interventions 

    Understanding brain research and its impact on trauma and mental health of our students is vital. This session will look at the "danger zones" for brain development, brain strengthening, and brain maintenance for our children and adolescents and how we can implement better supports and interventions based on brain research. The participants are highly encouraged to ask questions, join in the conversation, do some of the activities, and laugh throughout the session.



  • UTEP Project Blessed

    Dr. Carleton Brown is an Associate Professor of School Counseling in the Department of Counseling, Special Education, and Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso and serves as Co-Project Director for Project BLESSED. Dr. Brown is also the Coordinator for the School Counseling Program, as well as the Clinical Coordinator for the School Counseling Program.

    Dr. Beverley Argus-Calvo is an Associate Professor of Special Education and also serves as Chair of the Department of Counseling, Special Education, and Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Calvo is also a Co-Project Investigator for Project BLESSED.

    Dr. Anjanette Todd is an Assistant Professor of School Counseling in the Department of Counseling, Special Education, and Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso and serves as Co-Project Investigator for Project BLESSED.

    Dr. Kristopher Yeager is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the Department of Counseling, Special Education, and Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso and serves as Co-Project Director for Project BLESSED. Dr. Yeager is also the Coordinator for the Special Education program.

    TOPIC: Collaboration Between School Counselors and Special Educators to Enhance SEL Programming Across the Region

    In this presentation, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) frameworks will be reviewed, highlighting how these frameworks can be integrated and embedded within the school environment to impact student outcomes. Emphasis will be placed on the collaboration between special educators and school counselors across the El Paso region to support SEL programming. A case study and follow-up discussion related to SEL and MTSS will be presented. The University of Texas at El Paso, department of CSEP will also present preliminary findings from the Project Blessed grant. This grant is an interdisciplinary collaboration between special education and school counseling which will prepare leaders to support students with disabilities who have mental health or social-emotional learning needs.


  • Dr. Hanna Garza

    Dr. Hanna Garza serves as the Clinical Director for Texas Child Health Access through Telemedicine (TCHATT), at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, Texas (TTUHSC EP). She earned a Master's of Science in Mental Health Counseling, a Master's of Science in Psychology, and a PhD in Psychology. Dr. Garza is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Trauma Therapist, and a Certified Anger Management Facilitator. She brings over 20 years of professional experience working with diverse populations in different settings.

    TOPIC: Coping with Self-Harm Behavior

    This educational presentation will cover the impact of self-harm behavior on mental health of children and adolescents. This session will provide attendees with practical strategies to help prevent and reduce self-harm behavior in children and adolescents.

  • Ysleta I.S.D.

    Celina Munoz: Director of School Counseling 23 years as an educator in YISD former teacher, counselor, and administrator

    Lauri Moreno: Middle School Lead Counselor 27 years as an educator former teacher and counselor

    Crishna Chavez: Elementary Lead Counselor 17 years as an educator former Special Education teacher and counselor

    Jennifer Madrid: SEL Coordinator 26 years as an educator former teacher and counselor

    Dianna Lujan-Enriquez: 26 years as an educator former teacher and counselor

    TOPIC: SEL in Action

    Learn how to incorporate SEL with academics through the SEL 3 Signature Practices including Welcoming Activities, Engaging Strategies, and Optimistic Closures. Quick ideas to use while meeting with students.

  • Layne Pethick

    Layne Pethick

    TOPIC: Screen Time and Mental Health for Children and Adolescents

  • Dr. Sarah Martin   Jillian Longway

    Dr. Sarah Martin is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, El Paso. She is also the medical director of the El Paso Hub of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, that includes a school-based mental health program that is free for all students in districts that wish to join.

    Jillian Longway is a pediatric nurse practitioner and a pediatric primary care mental health specialist, and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Martin and Jillian Longway are currently working together on a project to increase children's access to mental health treatment in a 16 county region of far West Texas.

    TOPIC: Military Families: Challenges, Resources, and Resilience

    Military families have unique and significant stressors and often have minimal social support as they are separated from extended family and friends. This session will address stressors, but also resources available to military families, and ways in which we can assist them in maintaining and boosting their resilience. This will be presented by a child psychiatrist, formerly on active duty, and a pediatric nurse practitioner who is also the spouse of an active duty officer.

  • Socorro I.S.D.

    Bonnie Atilano, M.A., Educator, Special Ed Counselor for SISD Pre-K-12

    Tracy Alvarez-Valdez, MSSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Special Ed Counselor Pre-K-12

    Gabriel Nevarez, M. Ed., Educator, Special Ed Counselor for SISD Pre-K-12

    Josh Ortiz, M. Ed., Educator, Special Ed Counselor for SISD Pre-K-12

    TOPIC: Addressing Emotional Escalation

    This session will provide participants with the opportunity to better understand the behavior escalation cycle while providing interventions and strategies to support students during emotional distress. These tools will minimize harm and maximize safety for both students and staff involved in crisis.


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