Education faculty equip Savannah-area educators with trauma-informed practices for the new school year
When three Georgia Southern University education professors began researching trauma-informed practices, it quickly became apparent that educators and youth professionals wanted assistance with their student populations experiencing trauma.
Trauma-informed practice provides structure or framework that helps adults to understand, recognize and respond to the effects of various forms of trauma that youth may experience.
After surveying 800 educators in the state of Georgia, Regina Rahimi, Ed.D., professor of middle grades and secondary education; Delores Liston, Ph.D., professor of curriculum studies; and Amee Adkins, Ph.D., professor and department chair of middle grades and secondary education, said that the overwhelming majority of educators refer students with trauma to a school counselor.
With a shortage of mental health professionals present in schools, the research team realized a need and responded with the creation of the Trauma Informed Education Symposium of Southeast Georgia to assist local educators.
“Through that study, it was clear that this is an area of deep concern for area teachers and other professionals that work with youth,” said Rahimi. “This need was further underscored when we began collaborative research with staff from Savannah Chatham-County Public Schools (SCCPSS) in the Department of Specialized Education with Dr. Vanessa Keener.”
The symposium was originally slated to take place in May as a part of the post-planning experience for SCCPSS teachers and school professionals but was put on hold due to the pandemic.
“Quickly, it became apparent that the pandemic generates another form of trauma for both teachers and students,” said Liston. “We felt the symposium was more important than ever.”
The team regrouped and proceeded with an online symposium held on August 4 to help prepare participants for the return of students to school, whether in person or virtually, and incorporate the trauma-informed practices as a part of their teaching and classroom management for the coming school year. More than 150 educators virtually attended the event.
The keynote speaker for the event was Joe Hendershott, co-founder of Hope 4 The Wounded LLC, an organization that provides training for social-emotional learning strategies and trauma-informed practices for mental and social wellness. As a previous teacher, coach and administrator in the alternative and correctional education settings, Hendershott focused on practical skills and practices that can be implemented in the classroom.
Additional sessions included topics such as impacts of trauma on the brain, forming therapeutic relationships with youth, trauma and the juvenile justice system, self-care for educators, and implementation strategies for trauma-informed classroom practices.
“Getting this information to the faculty of schools, particularly schools that are fraught with behavioral issues and lower performance is a game changer,” said Lila Black, a school counselor at Haven Elementary School who attended the symposium.
Rahimi, Liston, Adkins and SCCPSS partner Vanessa Keener said they hope to continue the event annually to provide support and education for youth professionals.
“We have realized an even greater need for this work, as more students have experienced various levels of trauma-like experiences during this pandemic,” said Rahimi. “We feel like this symposium will continue to be of importance to educators and hope to continue it in the future.”
Lizann Roberts, executive director Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition and coordinator of Chatham Family Connection Collaborative and Alisa Leckie, Ph.D., assistant dean for partnerships and outreach, provided additional support for the symposium.