The role of a chaplain can vary dramatically from school to school. Each position is unique and this is especially true for Derby District High School chaplain Nikki Stinson.
Nikki divides her time between various tasks, such as ‘intentional loitering’ — walking around during breaks to see if any students need to chat, and one-to-one sessions in her office with students, teachers and parents. After several suicides in the area, Nikki was asked to do a weekly hour-long program on local radio called Chaplain’s Corner.
“That was almost two years ago, and the radio program has become a way to do mass home visitation, to talk about parenting, health, emotions, and the many issues that students and families deal with every day.”
Nikki is also an artist and has naturally incorporated art therapy into her role as a chaplain.
“I keep a file of photocopies from adult colouring books on my ‘talking table’ along with a basket of markers and crayons, and I would say that is my greatest art resource,” she said.
“When kids or adults come in upset, angry or stressed, they’ll head straight for the file, start colouring and the talking follows.”
Bubba, Nikki’s tri-colour small dog, has also become part of the school family.
“He was invited to come to school not long after I started working by a couple of the deputy principals, and was such a hit with everyone that he’s been attending almost every day since then,” Nikki said.
Bubba wears a vest made from an old school shirt, with a ‘Therapy Dog’ sticker, so people know why he’s there.
“When students are upset, angry or sad, there’s nothing like a cuddle with Bubba to make them feel better. It works for teachers too! When we’re ‘intentionally loitering’ at recess or lunch, Bubba has a way of knowing who needs to have a bit of a yarn and leads me to them.”