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

  • Friend of the University Library System

    Aug 2014

    Awarded in recognition of ongoing support of the library system.

  • 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

  • Kerr, M. M. (2014) Invited Keynote Address: Advice to the Next Generation: Not Quite Sure Where You’re Going? Then Don’t Lose the Compass

    Oct 2014

    Recollecting the lessons a long career has unearthed, this keynote address offers a personal perspective on the road our field has constructed, on detours our generation has been unable to avoid, and on destinations envisioned for those who will come intgo the field.

  • Valenti, M. , Brown, E. L., Kerr, M. M. , Scanlon, C. (2014) New Directions for Supporting Teachers’ Mental Health: The Intersection of Emotional Labor and Therapeutic Alliance

    Sep 2014

    Research discloses that teachers’ emotional support is the best predictor of academic, social, and behavioral outcomes for students. Recent inquiries into the emotive work of teaching unpack the role of teachers’ emotional labor on their therapeutic alliances with students with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD). This presentation highlights findings from a mixed method, longitudinal study concerning how teachers’ emotional labor influences their ability to forge healthy therapeutic alliances with their students. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

  • Horner, C. G., Brown, E. L., Kerr, M. M., & Scanlon, C. L. (2014, April). Teachers’ selection of emotional acting strategies in pursuit of classroom goals. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Philadelphia, PA.

  • Kerr, M. M. (February 28, 2014). Suicide prevention in schools: Understanding the research and implementing best practices (Invited keynote address). Statewide Youth Protection/Suicide Prevention Conference. Salt Lake City, UT

  • Kerr, M. M. & Valenti, M. W. (2013, October). Suicide Prevention In Schools: Understanding the Research and Implementing Best Practices. Advances in School Mental Health National Conference, Arlington, VA.

    Oct 2013


Recent Projects

  • Flight 93 Memorial Site Collaboration with National Park Service

    2013 - 2014

    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. The Junior Ranger Program was launched this year, and a publication about it will appear in the July 2014 Legacy Magazine (National Association of Interpretation).

  • Emotional Labor of Teachers Research Project

    2013 - 2014

    A collaborative research project with George Mason University, this project gathers quantitative and qualitative evidence regarding teachers' emotional practice, using the theoretical constructs of emotional labor. We are exploring the work teachers to do manage the expression of their emotions while at work, through individual interviews and a new self-report measure, The Emotional Labor of Teaching Scale (TELTS). Research began in the spring of 2011 and continues.


Recent Publications

  • Building Emotional Supports: How Teachers' Emotional Labor Informs Therapeutic Alliances for Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

    Nov 2014
    Brown, E.L., Valenti, M.,& Kerr, M.M. (in press). Building Building emotional supports: How teachers' emotional labor informs therapeutic alliances for youth with emotional and behavioral disorders. Report on Emotional & Behavioral Disorders in Youth.
  • Interpreting the Flight 93 Crash for Children: A Collaborative Evaluation Project

    Jul 2014
    Kerr,M.M., Shaffer, A., Hartman, M. (2104) Interpreting the Flight 93 crash for children: A collaborative evaluation project. Legacy: The Magazine of the National Association for Interpretation, July/August, 2014
  • Addressing Individual Perspectives in the Development of Schoolwide Rules: A Data-informed Process

    Valenti, M. W. & Kerr, M.M.(in press). Addressing individual perspectives in the development of schoolwide rules: A data-informed process. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions.
  • Evidence informed suicide prevention in schools

    Valenti, M.W., Kerr, M.M., & King, G. (in press). Evidence informed suicide prevention in schools, 8th Edition. In C. Massat, R. Constable,& M. Kelly (Eds.). School Social Work. Chicago: Lyceum Books.