Abby Rosen, Erin O’Connor-Slater and Chaston Richardson (L-R) are three of Questar III’s Social Workers.


March 8-12 is National School Social Work week, and in honor of this celebration, we’d like to introduce you to three of our newest social workers.

Abby Rosen started at Questar III in September 2020, based at the Paul Puccio School at Maple Hill and Catskill Academy. While she knew from a young age she wanted to work at a BOCES, she wasn’t sure what path she would take to get there.

After babysitting for a young boy with Down’s Syndrome while in High School, Abby knew she wanted to work with children with special needs. She began her college career at SUNY Potsdam pursuing a teaching degree, but after her first year, she changed her major to sociology and decided to work toward becoming a social worker. After completing her master’s degree at the University at Albany in 2019, she worked a residential facility before coming to Questar III.

She says while everyone faces obstacles in life, sometimes having someone there to help you through it can make all the difference.

“We need somebody to be able to hear us and see us. Sometimes we need that advocate in our lives and that’s just what I’ve always wanted to be, is that advocate for people who maybe don’t have the voice themselves,” she says.

Rosen recounted a story of one of her students who has trouble communicating struggling with how to appropriately express emotion. She says this student often would scream and yell and throw things when they got upset because that was the only way they knew to cope with those feelings. She says through working with this student, they can now respond by saying “it’s ok, let’s try again,” which was a huge breakthrough.

“My parents always said to me every single day, ‘find something to smile, laugh and be happy about,’ and I still say that to myself every single day. When I have kids, I’ll tell them that, and that’s just something that I like to instill in the students too. And it’s so rewarding to see that. They are so resilient, and they always find something to smile, laugh and be happy about,” says Rosen.

Rosen says one of the most challenging things about her work is that she always wants to do more.

“Yes, we get out of work at 2:30, but we don’t actually get out of work. At 2:30 our brains are always running. What can we do more as social workers? When I’m home at night, my brain is always thinking. What can I do to help this student?”

Erin O’Connor-Slater joined the Questar III clinical team as an itinerant social worker serving Ichabod Crane CSD and Germantown CSD in January 2021.

She says her desire to help people figure things out about themselves is one reason she decided to pursue a career in social work – along with a desire to work with children.

“I definitely love working with kids specifically because they just have a lot to not only learn, but they have a lot to teach me as well. Which, you know, is every day is different in every day. Learn something new that I didn’t know before,” she says.

O’Connor-Slater completed an internship at WSWHE BOCES, and after graduating with her master’s degree in 2018, she worked at a preschool in Albany. Her internship at WSWHE BOCES helped her “fall in love” with the school setting, so when a position opened at Questar III, it was a perfect fit.

The field of social work is not immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. O’Connor-Slater says it’s completely changed the way she interacts with students and families

“I was like, oh yeah, I’m going to work in a school and everything’s going to be great. I’m going to get to play games with kids and teach them about their emotions and talk to families and get them connected. And oh my goodness that is the opposite. It’s really challenged how I teach kids about their emotions.”

She says most people know social workers deal with a lot of difficult things, but there is another side to her work as well.

“Social workers, we deal with the really hard, hard stuff, but we also deal with the really happy stuff too. I think sometimes that gets pushed to the wayside because we are the trauma experts. We are expected to manage and support students through really traumatic events, but I think sometimes we forget that we can also be here for the positive and support that positive.”

Chaston Richardson has worked with Questar III twice – once through an internship at George Washington School while he was in graduate school, and again in his current role at Rensselaer Academy.

He began his career working at Northern Rivers in Albany working with young teenagers. After his first year he decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work because of the impact he was able to make on children in the community. After completing an internship with Michele Baldwin at George Washington School, he applied for his current full-time position with the BOCES.

“Seeing my students achieve their goals, seeing my students be happy to attend group or individual sessions is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, just because they didn’t have that connection while schools were closed during the first part of the pandemic,” Richardson says.

He says one of his students at Rensselaer Academy he knew from his previous work at Northern Rivers, and since coming to RA, the student had some trouble adjusting and was often out of his classroom. Richardson credits the team approach at the school with helping this student get on a path to success.

“The village came together, and we made him feel comfortable and now he’s staying in class, doing what he’s supposed to be doing and he’s helping others in his class as well, so I feel like that’s just a big win in all of our books.”

Like his colleagues, he acknowledges that self-care is an important part of being a social worker – and his family plays a big role in making sure he is ready to help others.

“My parents are very strong and make a strong impact on my life, so whenever I am able to connect with my family, that’s when I’m able to just refill my cup again so I could go out into the community and help others.”


Of course, we’d also like to extend a special thank you to all our social workers for the important work they do with our students and families every day!

Michele Baldwin – George Washington School
Kristin Esposita-Ublacker – Rensselaer Academy
Anne Goff – George Washington School
Jane Govola – Sackett Education Center
Sue LeGere – Columbia High School
Alyssa Lupinski – Paul Puccio School at Maple Hill
Peter Markman – Catskill Academy
Pamela Muraco-Simons – Sackett Education Center
Erin O’Connor-Slater – Ichabod Crane & Germantown
Kevin Reach – Academy at Rensselaer Education Center
Chaston Richardson – Rensselaer Academy
Abby Rosen – Catskill Academy
Laura Sichler – Rensselaer Academy
Jo Adele Foster – Columbia-Greene Education Center
Mari Warfel – Columbia-Greene Education Center

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