Sarah McCafferty, LCSW-S, believes in the importance of field instruction in not only social work students’ education, but also in their development into full-fledged social work professionals. “Field education provides them with the laboratory to practice skills and explore theories learned in the classroom,” she explains. Because of her dedication and enthusiasm, she has been selected for the 2022 Field Instructor of the Year Award. Sarah is currently the Program Coordinator for Social WorkSupport Services at Austin ISD’s CapCityKids program.

Sarah McCafferty and her child posing with the 2022 Field Instructor of the Year Award.

Every year, the UT Field Program faculty liaison team selects one exemplary field instructor who has consistently hosted Longhorn interns for more than three years.  This individual must also have contributed to SHSSW in ways beyond field, such as being a guest lecturer, and must stand out as a strong educational supervisor. 

Sarah is a proud alumnus of SHSSW. She graduated in 2006 as a macro student with a community engagement and organizing interest. While she graduated with this specialty, Sarah tries to be as much of a generalist as possible. Later she developed an interest in gaining more clinical skills, taking a job focused on direct services, pursuing her LCSW and later LCSW-S licensures. In her own words, “It is important to me not only to teach our graduate students the skills for the roles they will fill, but to understand what they will do in the greater scope of social work practice, not just as a field instructor but also as a member of the SHSSW Adjunct Faculty since 2009.” She has been working with youth and families for 18 years.

Since Sarah started working as a field instructor in 2007, she has experienced a wide range of internship placements—MSSW first year, clinical final field, and APP/CAL final field, to name a few—in a variety of settings.  Over the course of her time as a field instructor, Sarah has worked with the Theatre Action Project, now Creative Action, Workers Defense Project, Grassroots Leadership, Communities in Schools of Central Texas, and, most recently, Austin ISD through CapCityKids. Sarah is happy to share any knowledge and expertise she’s gained along the way, but she knows that she is always learning alongside her interns.

The CapCityKids Scholars Program is a collaboration between Austin ISD, SHSSW, and the Capital City Fund. This program takes in 10+ interns a year to give them high quality training in a school-focused setting that balances providing education and learning opportunities at micro, mezzo and macro applications. Sarah tries to customize each intern’s experience to include areas of social work that most interest them. She also knows that growth is often uncomfortable, so these placements always include areas of challenge for the interns.

Sarah is constantly on the lookout for district initiatives that need additional support and can provide rigorous learning opportunities. Her position as a field instructor is always changing, fun and dynamic, although, Sarah points out laughingly, “It’s sometimes too dynamic.”

Receiving the Field Instructor of the Year Award came as a surprise to Sarah. She is appreciative that her hard work is being recognized, and honored to further develop potential in each intern she works with. “Your field instructor makes a huge impact on your social work career growth,” says Sarah. “We have so much responsibility in shaping these emerging social workers.”

Sarah has guided and supervised at least 35 students over the years. This last school year, she provided support to 11 MSSW interns at 15 Austin ISD campuses. When asked about her favorite part of her job, her focus is immediately on working with the interns. She loves problem solving alongside them and expanding their view of social work beyond just the clinical. Sarah gets to bring in the community and show how it supports and affects students in a very holistic way. “Most people utilize interns to solely help serve their population,” says Sarah, “but I get to prioritize that interns’ learning and match it with the needs of the district. It’s really a very special opportunity.” 

This focus on interns—on SHSSW students—has marked Sarah’s entire career as a field instructor, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Before her next meeting with an intern, Sarah has one more thing to say: “I’m always learning from the students. I feel like the lucky one.”