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Take Five with Donna Flanagan: School Social Worker at Dyett High School

08 March 2024

As a school social worker, Donna is a passionate and dedicated advocate for her students.

Donna Flanagan

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many members of the CPS community who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here.


In honor of National School Social Work Week, we are excited to spotlight one of our incredible school social workers: Ms. Donna Flanagan! Donna is a licensed clinical social worker and certified school social work specialist who has been with CPS for 26 years, serving the students at Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts for the past seven. In 2021, Donna was named School Social Worker of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Social Workers, and she is currently working toward her doctorate in curriculum and instruction. 

As a school social worker, Donna is dedicated to supporting the needs of her students, helping them succeed, and building caring relationships with them and their families. And as the co-lead of Dyett’s Culture and Climate Team and a member of her school’s Behavioral Health Team and Postsecondary Leadership Team, she works closely with colleagues to create a welcoming, nurturing school environment with holistic supports for all students. 

When speaking about her work, Donna describes her approach as creative and hands-on. Whether it’s grant-writing or starting a new club, she is always thinking about new ways to reach and support her students. This commitment, combined with a true passion for social-emotional learning, makes it clear that she is a tireless advocate for her students. 

What is most fulfilling to you about your work?

The interactions with students, and the relationships I’m able to build with families and staff. It’s amazing to work with students all the way from freshman through senior year, and I feel so much joy when I see them succeed.

How do you think your students and colleagues would describe you?

Outspoken and enthusiastic!

What do you hope your students will take away from their time with you?

I hope I’m able to provide a safe space for them, and that they know they always have someone they can go to if they need help. 

I am also passionate about teaching students about self-care. I’ve noticed a lot of students struggling with their mental health since the pandemic, so I started a self-care group for students called the Diamond Club (diamonds are made under pressure!). We do everything from yoga and journaling to artistic projects, and I really want students to learn strategies for taking care of themselves, especially in times of stress.

It’s National School Social Work Week—do you have a message for any of your fellow school social workers?

Happy School Social Work Week! We all work so hard, so it’s great to be appreciated and celebrate ourselves.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m a big reader. My favorite genres are self-help, romance, and mysteries. I also love to travel— my next trip is an eight-day cruise over spring break!

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