Mary Margaret Kerr

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Mary Margaret Kerr

Mary Margaret Kerr

University of Pittsburgh
5911 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: 412-648-7205

Faculty - Department Chairperson

A graduate of Duke University and American University, Mary Margaret Kerr is Professor and Chair of Administrative and Policy Studies, Professor of Psychology in Education, and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. Also licensed as a superintendent, Dr. Kerr has worked in urban school districts throughout her academic career. In the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Kerr initially directed school-based research and training programs. Taking a public service leave from the University, Dr. Kerr served Pittsburgh City Schools as Director of Pupil Services. In 1995, Dr. Kerr was appointed by the federal court in California to serve as Consent Decree Administrator for the Chanda Smith special education case in LAUSD.where she worked for nearly a decade to reform all special education services for over 82,000 students. Returning to the University , Dr. Kerr directed training services for the University’s youth suicide and violence prevention center, STAR-Center, which provides crisis response services, training, and policy consultation to school districts and agencies across Pennsylvania.

In support of the National Park Service, Dr. Kerr’s current research team studies the experiences of children who visit and correspond with the Flight 93 memorial. Her second area of research explores the emotional practice of teachers in K-12 schools. With C. Michael Nelson, she authored Strategies for Addressing Behavioral Problems in the Classroom, now in its 6th edition. In 2009, she authored School Crisis Prevention and Intervention. Dr. Kerr is the recipient of the Jean Winsand Distinguished Woman in Education Award and the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award.

School Affiliations

Recent Awards

  • Council of Graduate Students in Education (CGSE) Extra Mile Award

    Apr 2012

    For service on behalf of graduate students in the School of Education.

  • Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh Susan Loutsion Volunteerism Award


    Awarded to a volunteer who has made a longstanding contribution to the organization.


Recent Presentations

  • Levine Brown, E. & Kerr, M.M. (2013). The Emotional Labor of Teaching. American Educational Research Association (AERA) National Meeting. San Francisco, CA

    May 2013

    Research has substantiated that teaching is an emotional practice. Recent studies have suggested that one framework for delineating the emotional practice of teaching is teachers’ emotional labor (EL). Our prior work confirmed that 468 K-12 teachers did engage in EL. Extending this line of inquiry, the current study examines teacher’s perceptions of classroom management in the context of performing EL.

  • Kerr, M.M. (2013) Keynote Address: "At least do no harm: School safety practices to avoid" Services for Teens at Risk Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA

    May 2013

    In the wake of recent school violence, communities press for tighter security in K-12 schools. As a result, schools may hurriedly adopt practices not only inappropriate but harmful. Using the latest research to date on school safety, this presentation outlines practices to avoid and offers alternatives to improve school safety.

  • Kerr, M.M. & McMullen, M.A. (2013) “9/11 and the Next Generation:Helping Children Impacted by Grief and Violence” Keynote address. PA Family Support Alliance, in partnership with Family Services of Western PA, Allegheny County DHS Safe Start Program, and the Allegheny IU. Pittsburgh, PA

    May 2013
  • Kerr, M.M. (Discussant) (2013). Ecological Perspective on Classroom Management: Policy, Culture, Relationship and Disposition. American Educational Research Association National Meeting. San Francisco, CA

    May 2013

    This symposium advances an ecological perspective on classroom management. By examining proximal processes as well as distal influences on these processes, the research presented in this session focuses on positive youth development in school-based settings. Adolescents and adults are understood to be co-constructing student and teacher development through shared experience and activity. Collectively, these empirical studies attend to teacher disposition, teacher evaluation systems, school and classroom culture, and the role of friends and peers in adolescents’ lives as unique but interrelated aspects of classroom management practice.

  • Kerr, M.M. (2012) Recommendations for School Districts: Youth Suicide Prevention. Colorado State School Safety Resource Center

    Nov 27, 2012

    This session helps decision-makers choose safe and effective approaches to youth suicide prevention, while avoiding strategies that may be harmful. Participants will receive a detailed report of recommendations for use in their agencies, communities, or schools. A former co-director of a state-wide suicide prevention, treatment, and training center, the presenter has worked extensively with urban, suburban, and rural schools in assessing students risk for suicide, planning appropriate referrals, organizing school and community supports, and responding to suicide deaths.


Recent Projects

  • Flight 93 Memorial Site Collaboration with National Park Service

    2012 - 2013

    We are conducting research on the experiences of children who visit and correspond with the Flight 93 memorial site. The goal of our work is to support the National Park Services in its development of programming for young visitors. Research began in the Spring on 2012 and continues.