Fernbrook Family Center offers teachers in Southeast Minnesota support during historic challenges

“I can’t think of a time when teachers have scrambled to do more things with less amount of time than in the past two years," said Rochester Education Association President Dan Kuhlman.

Fernbrook Family Center - David Scales
David Scales, Olmsted County Clinical Director for Fernbrook Family Center, is pictured on Monday, May 16, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Teachers in Southeast Minnesota are getting some extra help dealing with the heavy lifting that’s become associated with the pandemic and its aftermath.

Fernbrook Family Center, which has offices in multiple communities, has received grant funding it's putting toward resources for teachers in a number of school districts.

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“We all know that school staff are very overwhelmed and burnt out after the pandemic, and this program will attempt to help support them,” Fernbrook Family Center CEO Shannon Brown said in an email.

The service will be available through the end of the school year, and likely next year as well, according to Ashley Kimmell, a school-based services specialist with Fernbrook Family Center. The amount of the grant funding Fernbrook is dedicating to the service is $15,000.

In practical terms, teachers can sign up for 30-minute consultations as many times as they would like. The service is free to the teachers in the districts being serviced.


Teachers in Rochester and Stewartville have had access to the service for a longer period, according to Kimmell. They just recently opened the service up to a larger pool of school districts.

Dan Kuhlman, president of the Rochester Education Association, reiterated the stress teachers have experienced since the pandemic began. He explained how teachers had to switch between learning models, at times handling both students in the classroom and students online in quarantine.

“In our field, it’s like the work quintupled,” Kuhlman said. “I can’t think of a time when teachers have scrambled to do more things with less amount of time than in the past two years.”

It hasn’t just been an issue of switching models, either. The pandemic created a large need for mental health services. At the same time, however, there is a shortage of mental health professionals in the field.

That means teachers have had to fill in the gaps at times. That, in turn, has lead to more stress for teachers.

“Teachers are kind of the front line of mental health right now,” Kimmell said. “This is Fernbrook’s effort to support teachers in whatever capacity they need … (we’re) giving them that safe place to find support and to feel validated and feel heard.”

David Scales, Olmsted County clinical director for Fernbrook, said the service is a way to help not only teachers, but the students those teachers work with.

He said teachers have been calling with different needs. One scenario, he said, is that teachers call to talk about their jobs and the large number of expectations placed on their shoulders without a sufficient number of resources to deal with them. He said that’s especially the case with special education teachers, who often deal with unique challenges and situations.


Another scenario is when teachers call to talk about how their work has impacted other areas of their lives.

“There are numerous calls where they say ‘Hey, I just need someone to talk to. My work life is out of balance. My home life is out of balance. And I just need someone to listen to me talk,’” Scales said.

Fernbrook Family Center is offering the service to teachers in the following districts.

  • Alden-Conger Public Schools
  • Arcadia Charter School
  • CHOICE Technical Academy
  • Discovery Public School
  • Faribault Public Schools
  • Glenville-Emmons Public Schools
  • Goodhue Public Schools
  • Grand Meadow Public Schools
  • Hayfield Public Schools
  • LeRoy Public Schools
  • Maple River Public Schools
  • Northfield Public Schools
  • NRHEG Public Schools
  • Owatonna Public Schools
  • Redwing Public Schools
  • Rochester Public Schools
  • Stewartville Public Schools
  • TEAM Academy
  • Triton Public Schools
  • Waseca Public Schools
  • Zumbro Education District
  • Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools
Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or
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