Cari Wilson a classroom teacher shares stories of her students who are struggling with mental health and self-esteem issues.

The Importance of Mental Health and Self-Esteem through Digital Portfolios

Cari Wilson a classroom teacher shares stories of her students who are struggling with mental health and self-esteem issues.

Cari Wilson

Elementary Innovation + Technology Lead Teacher

Cari Wilson is the Elementary Innovation and Technology Lead Teacher for West Vancouver School District. With over 20 years of classroom experience and a Masters in Educational Technology, Cari works with both teachers and students in West Vancouver and beyond, helping them implement technology and innovation in engaging and thoughtful ways.

Cari Wilson recently did a webinar where she shared how digital portfolios have affected the mental health and self-esteem of her students. She shares real student stories from her 20+ years of classroom experience.


Lilly is a GREAT kid, but she has really low self-esteem. She struggles to learn and has a hard time reading but does not have anything identifiable. Lilly is one of those kids that tends to fall through the cracks and is left for teachers to help the best way they can.

Lilly auditioned for the school play and was given a fairly decent part. She was super excited. This experience was the first time where her talents were being recognized. She is outgoing, she likes to talk, she likes to sing and up until rehearsals started, those things were not recognized in an academic setting. The academic setting kept highlighting the things that she couldn’t do. When rehearsals started, this kid went from the attitude of do I have to go to school to be eager to come to school every day. 

Prior to the school play, Lilly would have only written one-two lines for her self reflections, and they were poorly spelled with very little punctuation. Giving her an opportunity to think about what she is good at and then to put her reflections into FreshGrade where her parents could see them, she just went on and on. This is a child who is starting to hold her head high and her success is now starting to spill into other academic areas.


Danny is a very athletic kid, the kind of kid who plays every sport under the sun. He does have self-esteem issues and struggles which often comes out with bullying behavior with other kids

Through FreshGrade, Cari has been able to show him his progress throughout the year. His first word of the day test came around and he didn’t care about it, he didn’t study, he just didn’t think it was important. He had another word of the day test where he did a little bit better, still not a great mark but there was some visible improvement. What was happening is stuff was going on FreshGrade, his parents were seeing it, he is seeing the other kids around him get excited about their marks. He started for the first time to understand that this school stuff is a little more important than he first thought. 

Danny started to make a decision for himself that he wanted to turn this around that he needed to be a bit better at school. FreshGrade allowed for this ongoing recording of his progress which allowed Danny to see his growth and progress over time.


Sarah is a very quiet child, not super studious, and is one of those kids that can slip through the cracks because mom and dad are not around very much. It’s not that they don’t love her, it’s not that they don’t think it’s important, it’s just that they are very busy. FreshGrade helps parents be present even when they are very busy by providing real-time digital access to the classroom.

Sarah’s mom gets to see her report card in her FreshGrade parent account and can contact Cari right away from the convenience of her phone no matter where she is. Sarah’s parents can add comments, without the need to email, or book an appointment. They are able to talk with Sarah and get good understanding when things are not going the way that they should be. FreshGrade comments allow Cari to connect right away with Sarah’s parents and start to work with Sarah on ways to help her feel better about what she is doing.

Seeing her parents’ encouraging words in her portfolio is one of Sarah’s most favorite things. Often times parents are not able to encourage their children simply due to the fact that they do not know what is going on in the classroom. FreshGrade allows instant insight into what is going on in school and allows parents to make that connection.

Kids who have strong connections have a good chance of having better mental health because they have other people involved in their lives. CARI WILSON


Ali is a great kid, very quiet, English is a second language for him, and he has been getting a lot of bullying from his peers. The kids call him stupid, they call him fatty. He got a text where a kid had said ‘go kill yourself’. Which is heartbreaking, no kid should have to go through that. But sadly a lot of kids are dealing with things like this.

For kids like Ali FreshGrade allows there to be a balance to the negative comments that they get on social media platforms. Teachers, parents, and administrators can add encouraging words and positive comments to his portfolio. These comments are stored over the years where Ali can log in and look at his portfolio to be reminded of the nice things people have said about him and his work. For Ali, there is hopefully a balance, he can look into his portfolio and see the positive comments from the adults in his life. This does not mean that it is enough for the negative to go away or for him to feel better about himself all the time. But it is something to try and balance out the negative in his life.

Encouragement for Teachers

It’s important to know when you don’t know enough. It’s important to recognize when someone else needs to get involved. It’s important to call in an expert, a school psychologist, or counsellor to help. There are lots of things you can do as a classroom teacher to help kids with mental health and self-esteem issues. You are there for them and a positive influence in their lives. But there are some kids who have really severe mental health and self-esteem issues so it is important to look for help for those kids and to stand up and be an advocate for them.



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