CASTLETON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Educators are still seeing lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the classroom, especially when it comes to learning and hiring. They’re also seeing more students come into the classroom struggling with mental health.

Dr. Gladys Cruz, Superintendent for Questar III, said the number of students who experience challenges with their mental health has skyrocketed.

“We have seen behavior issues go up,” Cruz said. “We’ve seen attendance issues so we really need to work with all of these components because if a student doesn’t feel safe, isn’t in the classroom, they can’t learn.” 

Cruz said those behaviors can be made worse if a student’s basic needs are not met.

“Students can bring to school a lot of external hardships,” Cruz said. “It’s important for a teacher, an educator, to identify those signs so we can then address the needs of our learners.” 

The mental health crisis is also affecting teachers, who are facing burnout with staffing shortages and stress, Cruz said opening conversations on how to address it is key to improving the learning environment.

“We need to get the stigma away from mental health and it has gotten better,” Cruz said. “That is something nobody wanted to talk about and I’m glad it’s been raised to a level of critical importance so everybody is addressing it and is willing to talk about it.”