Dave Thomas is a 1996 graduate of RIT’s School Psychology program. He is currently the psychologist for the Minerva Deland High School (9th grade building) in Fairport, New York, and the president-elect of RIT’s School Psychology advisory board. After graduating, Dave took a position as a school psychologist at Greece Apollo Middle School, in the same district where he had previously been an intern. His original role at Greece Apollo was working with the 8:1:1 program there. Dave greatly enjoyed this experience as it provided a wide range of opportunities to work with the students on different levels. He conducted less than 10 evaluations per year, enabling him to focus on various counseling activities, classroom “push-in’s” (e.g. teaching social skills or character education lessons to classes), and to work to integrate the students into regular education settings. Unfortunately, despite the program’s success, especially in working toward integration, it was shut down before long, thus moving Dave into a new role as one of two building psychologists for the general student population. On the bright side, by working with Jim Vreeland, his fellow building psychologist (and another RIT graduate), Dave was able to still find time to get involved with students outside the processes of assessment and evaluation. He recalls feeling fortunate to be able to spend time working on classroom-level interventions based around team-building and other activities outside the Guidance Suite doors.
After six years in Greece, Dave made the move to Fairport and the Minerva Deland School where he works today. Dave is very happy in his current position as the school psychologist for this 9th grade-only building. He enjoys the general attitude toward education and the overall supportiveness of the faculty and administration. As in his previous positions, Dave is able to spend a good deal of time away from the assessment table, getting into the lunch room and classrooms to be directly involved with students and to get their perceptions on school, parents, teachers, and a host of other topics. He is also actively involved in the “Career Seminar” program, bringing in members of the community during lunch periods to talk to interested groups of students about the possibilities for life beyond High School.
Thinking back to his days as a graduate student, Dave described it as being “kind of a blur,” because of the sheer intensity of trying to balance working as a buyer and seller of antiques, coaching soccer and basketball at Caledonia-Mumford, and taking full-time classes. Even before coming to the graduate program at RIT, Dave’s academic career was less-than-simple. Dave came to settle on psychology after a round-about trip through undergraduate school where he explored various possibilities including packaging science here at RIT. He finally earned his Bachelor’s degree in psychology at Nazareth College. From there, he began taking school psychology courses at RIT as a non-matriculated student after being clued into the field by a family friend. After a couple classes, Dave was hooked and became a full-time, matriculated student, eventually earning the Ted Bernstein award as an outstanding graduate student. In recollection, Dave remembers enjoying just listening to lectures and commentary from other students and gauging where his thoughts and perceptions fit in with regard to those of his professors and classmates. He also recalls being part of a very supportive and close-knit class that made his time at RIT that much more worthwhile.
In closing, Dave truly enjoys his work as a school psychologist. He feels that he has been able to consistently find his niche and to make his career largely into what he wants it to be. While fulfilling the role asked of him by his employers, Dave has been able to gain personal fulfillment as well by letting his own ideas and passions constantly underlie his work and guide his practice.
By Steve Verstraete