Schreiber, Plocher add field work experience to social work department

Jill Schreiber and Mary Plocher, the newest faculty members in the social work department, bring their real-world experience to the classroom to prepare the next generation of social workers.

Jill Schreiber (left) and Mary Plocher (right) are the newest faculty members for the social work department.

Schreiber, who has a master’s in social work (MSW) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, worked at Community Resource and Counseling Center in Paxton and at Champaign Unit 4 Schools before returning to school for her doctorate.

At the counseling center, Schreiber said she counseled children and families “who experienced difficulties or trauma” to help “them increase their well being.”

“Social work as a profession is designed to improve the quality of life for marginalized or oppressed people,” Schreiber said, “and I wanted to help assist people who were hurting or in need of resources to better achieve their potential.”

Schreiber said she believes her personal and professional life brings a unique perspective to the classroom.

“I think my work experiences in schools, in a mental health center, as a foster mother and the variety of life experiences I bring enhances my teaching,” Schreiber said.

Prior to teaching at SIUE, Schreiber taught at the University of Illinois in the educational psychology department and in social work courses.

Schreiber sought a doctorate to “increase” her impact through “helping educate very strong social workers,” as well as to study the connection between religion and social work. And though she said she enjoys research, Schreiber “really enjoys being in the classroom” and appreciates SIUE’s diverse students and faculty population.

“The social work department here has a really nice mix of seasoned teachers and supportive faculty that are really strong pedagogically and very, very supportive, as well as a nice set of colleagues that are younger and more research oriented,” Schreiber said. “So I felt like I had both good mentoring and good colleagues to do research.”

Similarly, Plocher said SIUE’s social work professors are “so incredibly knowledgeable.” As such, Plocher can make connections between her practical experience and her co-workers’ knowledge of the field.

“I have the stories to match their knowledge,” Plocher said. “… This profession is both art and science, and there are people who have dedicated their lives to research and science in the field and make huge contributions that way, and then there’s the others of us who have focused on the art of service, and that’s what you do with an MSW. You know the art of it and so [having experience in the field] brings that to the classroom.”

Plocher, an SIU Carbondale alumnus, first worked at SIUE from 1999 – 2006, and after a six-year hiatus from the academic world, returned last fall in a part-time capacity. When a full-time position opened for the current academic year, she spoke up.

Plocher said she returned to SIUE because she “still wanted to make a contribution.”

“I thought about being a realtor. I thought about doing all these other things, and I just kept being pulled back to social work in one way or another,” Plocher said. “So I still want to make a contribution… This still feels like paying it forward because I’m still taking all this experience that I have and sharing it with the new people who will carry on in the profession. So it really fits why I got into the profession in a whole new way.”

She devoted her career to social work as a way to “pay it forward” – spending nearly 30 years as a school social worker – but said the demands on school social workers are “very, very high.”

“Children need the best of what we have to give, and I did that for 27 years, and I loved it…,” Plocher said. “I loved it because I love kids, but I was ready to be part of the solution in a different way.”

Plocher worked for the Family Services and Community Mental Health Center for McHenry County from 1975-1980 and has 16 years of experience teaching, including her first stint at SIUE. She earned her MSW from George Williams School of Social Work at Aurora University in 1977, owns a private practice and is licensed in clinical social work.

For more information on the social work department, visit

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