Though now serving as both a national and international consultant, it was in 2014, shortly after my "ah-ha" moment learning about the significance of ACEs science while working for the police, that my career altering journey began. In the early days, my mindset was to "trauma inform" the region. Those adventures and outcomes I've written about in blogs published in PACEs Connection over the past 8 years along the way.
Within rural Appalachia I've delivered training and coaching to thousands of professionals in diverse sectors and organizations covering counties in both Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. Among the professionals reached, hundreds of educators and school professionals within at least a dozen or more school districts are some of them. In 2019, while working for a regional healthcare system as their first Trauma Informed Administrator, I met Dr. Dennis Carter, Superintendent of Smyth County Schools (an alumni of Emory & Henry College) and he asked me to provide training to his leadership and staff of nearly 700. Since this time, I've provided many trainings for Smyth County Schools and their journey to move the entire district made up of 14 schools to become trauma sensitive and resilient focused has been inspiring!
While continuing this work regionally, I offered a training where I met Dr. Frederick from Emory & Henry College. As you will read in her own words in the interview that follows, this content greatly impacted her not only as an educator but as someone who was shaping future educators in her role at Emory & Henry College. Fast forward to 2022 when Dr. Frederick asked me to be the keynote speaker for the annual BG Raines Forum. Following the forum, she wrote me a note to thank me for my presentation. I decided to respond to her letter with an idea to collaborate on creating an online toolkit for school professionals. In February of 2023, Creating Trauma Informed Resilient Schools - A Toolkit for School Professionals was launched!
Recently I interviewed Dr. Frederick and here is the story of collaborating on the toolkit.
Tell us about yourself and your role at Emory & Henry College
I am Sandy Frederick and I am the Director of the Neff Center for Teacher Education at Emory & Henry College. Currently, I work with pre-service teacher pursuing their degree and licensure to become a teacher. Previous to my time at Emory & Henry College, I was a middle school teacher for 12 years and a middle school administrator for 5 years. I try very hard to prepare our future teachers for the realities of the classroom by sharing my experiences being an educator in four states with diverse ethnic, socio-economic, and neurodiverse populations.
Dr. Sandy Frederick, Director of the Neff Center for Teacher Education at Emory & Henry College
When/how did you learn about trauma informed care and ACEs?
In my first year at Emory & Henry College I was invited by a colleague to attend a trauma-informed training with Becky sponsored by a local health care organization. During that two day training I reflected deeply on my experiences as a K-12 educator and I frequently thought I wished that I had known more about trauma-informed care, ACEs, and building resilient communities during my time as a teacher and administrator. I recognized that many of the behaviors that I was having to manage in my classroom and school settings were directly related to childhood trauma. It was during this training, that I determined that our pre-service teachers and Emory & Henry needed this information so that they could enter the teaching profession with a trauma informed lens. It simply became a non-negotiable topic in my curriculum.
How did this information impact you and did you begin to apply it in your work to influence educators?
One of the courses I teach within our teacher preparation program is Human Growth and Development and I felt that this course, which is required for all teacher preparation majors, was the ideal course to embed discussions about teachers using trauma-informed strategies. I vividly remember the first time I taught about ACEs. I had a student meet me at my office door after class and share with me that they had just realized during our class period that they had a very high ACE score, and that they realized how much their childhood trauma was impacting them as an adult. After speaking with this student, we were able to identify supports at the College that could begin their healing process. I witnessed how just one person can be the catalyst for healing. I wish I could say that conversation was the only time I had a student approach with the same revelation. But honestly, each semester when we spend the week discussing ACEs and trauma-informed care I have students share similar experiences and stories of their childhood. These conversations inspire me even more to ensure that our future teachers know about ACEs and trauma informed care as I know that their work will have exponential effects on our communities.
Why do you feel equipping educators in SW VA to understand ACEs is relevant to their work?
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even more so afterwards, we are seeing behaviors in schools that are directly linked to the effects of childhood trauma. As Becky says, teachers are the “tip of the spear” when it comes to identifying children of trauma and connecting them sources of support within our schools and communities. When I speak to our graduates and their employers that have been trained through our coursework I hear about how our alumni are approaching challenging behaviors differently. When they see a challenging behavior in their classrooms they are asking the questions necessary to find out the “why” of that behavior rather than immediately punishing students in order to correct behavior. This is a critical pivot in our way of managing student behavior's and administering discipline. Discipline has often times been viewed that punishment or penalty should be delivered in order shape behavior. But, we know from research that discipline is meant to correct or shape behaviors using a variety of strategies, which include teaching positive and healthy behaviors. Much of this is done by building relationships with students from the start. When we take the time to get to know our students on a personal level, not only can we positively impact social-emotional learning, we know it will have a positive impact on their academic growth.
Do you think this knowledge can benefit every educational professional?
Absolutely! Teachers see children every day and over a period of time and this aspect of their work gives them a unique perspective on each individual child. Having the tools to recognize behaviors, as well as, the strategies to improve outcomes will positively impact schools. Becky and I realize that educators need this information now and this is why Creating Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools: A Toolkit for School Professionals was a project we just had to work on together! The Toolkit is meant for all school personnel and will give participants the information and strategies they need to begin their work in building resilience.
How was the idea born to create an online course?
Becky and I felt that the most effective and efficient way to deliver this content was using an online, asynchronous format that allowed educators to delve deeper into the content at a time that was convenient for their busy schedules. We know that educators have a lot on their “to do” lists and we wanted to offer this information in a way that they could pace themselves in accordance with their work and home responsibilities. When I proposed the idea to Emory & Henry College they were quick to tell us that they wanted to invest their resources in the project as they too could see the tremendous potential and impact the Toolkit could have on our community and the nation as a whole.
Becky Haas recording the toolkit at Emory and Henry College before a live audience of educators in the summer of 2022.
Describe the toolkit content
Participants in the study will matriculate at their own pace through 8 modules. Each module contains information that builds the case for why we need trauma-informed practices in schools to how teachers and schools can implement these practices in practical and sustainable ways. Modules include topics like educator self-care, addressing the trauma of racism in the classroom, strategies for regulating students, focusing on resilience and developing predictable, healing environments. There are also modules about how schools can partner with their community, including school resource officers and a module that lists dozens of trusted resources educators can use to continue growing this work through individual or staff led book studies. The last module is the inspiring story of how one school division has implemented these practices as told in the words of Smyth County Schools leadership.
How impactful in the course is it to hear Dr. Carter as an alumni of Emory & Henry share about their journey to create a trauma informed school district?
As I said, the last module is the story of Smyth County Schools, Virginia and how their superintendent, Dr. Dennis Carter, lead their schools and stakeholders in becoming a trauma informed community. The purpose of this story is to give educational leaders an example of how trauma informed strategies and practices being presented in the course can be implemented at a school division-wide level. Dr. Carter and his colleagues, speak about how various community agencies work together in their county and they share stories of how their work has already impacted their community.
Educators who attended the filming of the course . Presenters included (first row, left to right) Smyth County Sheriff's Department Captain Tony Powers, Smyth County Schools Kim Sturgill, School Superintendent, Dr. Dennis Carter, Becky Haas and Dr. Sandy Frederick
What are your hopes for this course?
Our hopes for this course is that we can make trauma-informed content easily available and accessible to educators throughout the nation and abroad. To date we've already had inquiries from professionals in several states and abroad! By making this content available online and asynchronously, we feel that educators have the flexibility to participate in the training wherever they are located and at a time that works best for their busy schedule. Ultimately, we know that the more educators that know, understand, and implement trauma informed strategies the more successful we all are in building strong brains and resilient communities.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Here is a short video preview of the course.
The cost for the course is $200 dollars and those completing it will earn 15 CEU's. To learn more about the toolkit and to register please visit: https://www.ehc.edu/academics/...d-resilient-schools/