Meet LIHSA Social Worker Nancy Tuck

We  are proud to welcome Nancy Tuck to the Long Island High School for the Arts as our new Social Worker. 

Nancy brings 23 years of experience, including 18 years with Nassau BOCES, along with remarkable patience, insight and understanding of the challenges that students could face as they start the new school year. 

We asked Nancy to share some details on her career as a Social Worker, as well as some other facts about herself and some words of wisdom for the students.

Education background:

I attended New York University for my Master of Social Work degree, and Albany Medical College for my Doctorate in Bioethics. I have been a social worker for over 33 years; starting my career working in medical and psychiatric hospitals and running community centers before transitioning to educational settings. I have been in the education field for 23 years, the past 18 of which have been working for BOCES. I pursued my Doctorate in Bioethics because It was the perfect synthesis of my varied clinical experiences, and the humanistic dimension of rapidly emerging medical technologies. It addresses ethical and moral questions such as, “Even though we have the technology to do X, is it the right thing to do, for the individual/their family, the community, and present and future generations. Many different perspectives (e.g., philosophical, medical, legal, sociological, etc.) are explored in trying to come up with not only what is ethically permissible, but what is equitably just for all members of society.

What influenced you to become a Social Worker?

My grandmother was a social worker, my dad was a psychiatrist, and my stepmother was a social worker…so you might say that I was destined to pursue work in the human services field! I debated whether to become a psychologist or social worker; ultimately social work seemed to be a better fit for me.

What are three traits that you need to be a successful social worker? 

First and foremost, you have “to be present”. This means that you have to be completely available to the person that you are trying to help, without any distraction. You need to listen and validate where the person is coming from—what is bothering them, from their perspective, and what additional issues may be compounding a situation.

Next, you have to be continually self-reflective. We are all are shaped by personal life experiences and internal moral compasses, which often manifest in knee-jerk responses/reactions to people or events. The reality is that everyone has implicit biases, so self-reflection, stock-taking, and personal acknowledgment of these biases is a (sometimes) painful, but (always) necessary, part of the process needed to build trust with the students and families we work with.

I also think that there are aspects to being a successful social worker that are intuitive…being able to “read people” and to gauge mood, reactions, and behaviors, requires built-in sensitivity. Experience also helps—the more you work with people, the more attuned you become to subtleties of behavior and mood. This goes a long way in the relationship-building and therapeutic process.

What is the most fulfilling part of the job?

I have worked with students who have suffered losses and disappointments from a young age, students who have felt misunderstood and/or excluded from peer groups, and who struggle with self-esteem issues. There is no greater joy than watching students “come into their own”, by finding their voice, asserting their needs/desires, and learning to implement productive social and mental-health coping strategies. It is also very fulfilling when students relay improved communication/relationships with friends and family members. I always feel a sense of humility and great privilege in being entrusted with student well-being and growth during these pivotal adolescent years.

First impression after a week at LIHSA?

LIHSA is a welcoming and inclusive community of teachers, support staff, and students. There is great emphasis on creating and maintaining safe spaces for people to express themselves as individuals and as artists. I feel welcomed and appreciated as a support staff member and look forward to working closely with all staff in making the student experience as wonderful as possible!

What hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not in school?

I am an avid reader, especially of historical fiction. I also like to crochet, needlepoint, and do all forms of arts and crafts.

Favorite Movie:

Sometimes movies (just like books) that are made for a children’s audience will impact us as adults in surprisingly profound ways. For me, that movie is the Lion King. The musical score is amazing, the art/animation is astounding, but the message of early loss, survivor’s guilt, finding one’s way, and building a life of meaning are so poignant that I find myself tearing up and feeling deeply moved every time I watch it. Prior to the Lion King, Disney movies had dealt with parental loss in peripheral (off-screen) ways. But this movie addresses loss and growth in a way that engages (without overwhelming) the audience. It makes the triumphs and joyous moments all the more cherished and celebratory!

Favorite Song:

I love the song “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban. That song always moves me, as I personally honor the people in my life who have/continue to, lift me up.

Favorite Artist:

I would pick theatrical director and performing artist Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is so multifaceted and talented, with unique artistic vision, and is front-and-center when it comes to advocating for, and implementing, inclusivity in theater. He also reaches out to help Latinx communities domestically and abroad. In every sense, Lin-Manuel “walks the walk”!

Best part of living on Long Island:

Long Island has so many nature-based things to do and explore! It is wonderful being in such proximity to the water, while also being able to enjoy wooded trails and parks. I like the small-town community feel where people get to know you at local community shops, but also being part of a larger community where there are easily accessible stores, restaurants, gyms, and other places to go.

Words of wisdom for LIHSA students as they begin their school year:

You and your family have advocated for you to be able to attend this truly unique school, so please embrace every opportunity offered to explore, learn, create, and grow! All of us are here to support you through your journey, so please do not hesitate to reach out! Anyone can have a bad day, and sometimes we just need to decompress; other times there are things weighing on our minds that can distract from learning and being able to focus. Please reach out to me for anything–whether it’s to get some immediate stress-relief strategies, to be able to vent/talk and get some emotional support, or to learn about community resources available for people you care about.