We would like to thank Danielle Frye at Lara Kendall Elementary School for sharing this story with us. LKES is doing an excellent job improving their school climate by integrating trauma-informed practices and RTI²-B, as well as elevating student voice and promoting stakeholder engagement. Read her story below, and check out this video of Danielle discussing their work!
Lara Kendall Elementary School has taken the reins on becoming a trauma-informed school. It all began when all staff and faculty received training in Building Strong Brains. In this training, staff learned strategies to help our students who may be experiencing a high level of ACEs. The overwhelming response after this training was that teachers wanted more training. LKES staff began a book study on Help for Billy, where teachers learned even more trauma-informed classroom strategies.
After these two events, every teacher at LKES wanted a peace corner, where students can go to take a few minutes to regroup when they are not feeling safe. Many teachers began implementing many other trauma-informed practices, such as alternative lighting for sensory enrichment. In addition to our visual supports detailing our Tier 1 expectations, all teachers have been provided with a Zones of Regulation visual support. Whenever a student is upset or dysregulated, but struggling to communicate, they can point to the feeling and see what strategies they can utilize.
To further serve the complex needs of students, our staff was also introduced to Restorative Practices. We are actively doing a book study on Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice.
On an individual, group, and family level, we have a Referral Pathway through Project AWARE where students can be referred for Tier II or Tier III level of mental health and behavioral support. We have a school counselor, behavior specialist, a social worker, and a therapist that can serve students in the school and in the home as needed. Furthermore, all students in grades 6-8 were trained to self-refer using the Referral Pathway as needed.
To help reinforce healthy self-care practices in our faculty and staff, our school has provided a fitness area and calming room. Healthy snacks are provided weekly in teacher work areas. These initiatives came after a survey asking teachers what they needed to feel more supported. These three items ranked the highest.
Our students have also been working hard to enhance our school climate in a variety of ways. First, our Kindness Club students read the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? This story teaches students kind ways to be a "bucket filler" (doing kind acts that make others feel good) rather than be a "bucket dipper" (doing unkind things that make others feel sad). The Kindness Club students created buckets that said, "Be a Bucket Filler," that were provided to every teacher, 3rd-8th grade. These buckets contained daily kindness challenges that the teachers drew from every morning. An example of a kindness challenge was, "Clean up after yourself without being asked." If teachers noticed a student engaging in these challenges, they could reinforce the behavior with Falcon Tickets. Students can collect Falcon Tickets to use on items at our Falcon Store.
Students have been engaged in a variety of awareness initiatives at Lara Kendall Elementary. For Autism Awareness Month, our Kindness Club students created sensory bottles for each elementary classroom. During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the AWARE Youth Mental Health Council and Student Health Council worked together to create a PSA to educate students on the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide risk. This PSA also included how to seek help from a school-based mental health specialist, or through other resource avenues, such as the National Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For Bullying Prevention Month and Unity Day (a day for all to wear orange to show unity for acceptance, kindness, and inclusion), Move2Stand Club, our anti-bullying club, created a PSA sharing some statistics and facts about bullying, as well as ways to seek help if a student is experiencing bullying. In addition to the PSA, our LKES teachers, staff, and students wore orange on Unity Day (October 21, 2020) to show their commitment to unite for a bully-free school.
Finally, our district has developed a nomination process called "Exceptional Falcons." Every month, anyone can nominate an administrator, school faculty, or staff for something exceptional they did to help our school community. These are sent our in a monthly email thread so that our entire district can see all the amazing things our Exceptional Falcons are doing to help each other and our students.
There are many more things that we could list, but these are just a few highlights from this school year. At LKES, we truly are a family, and will continue to serve each other and meet our students' needs to the best of our abilities.
Great work, Lara Kendall Elementary, and thank you for sharing your story with us! Do you have a story to share? Learn more about how to be featured in a monthly spotlight here.