An innovative partnership between East Tennessee State University and the Unicoi County School System will provide a framework to support students who have suffered trauma and other negative childhood experiences.
The goal of the five-year initiative, called the Resilient Schools Project, is to guide administrators in identifying tools, resources and practices that the Unicoi County school system can provide to help these students overcome barriers. academic success, according to ETSU faculty. member Dr. Ginger Christian.
“Children face difficult life events, which can affect their ability to learn and thrive,” said Christian, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at Clemmer College. “Educators have a powerful influence on students’ lives, and resilient schools understand and connect evidence-based practices to building strong brains.”
“The project champions the Unicoi County School System’s vision to invest in students and build our future,” said UCS Principal John English. “We are thrilled with the emphasis on social-emotional learning and research-based programs that align with our district’s goals.”
ETSU’s ELPA Department and the Strong BRAIN Institute are teaming up with Unicoi County Schools on this project to offer training, coaching, and assessment tools.
The ELPA department and SBI provide resources and work closely with the UCS leadership team to teach students how to respond to difficult life events. These university partners will make resources available to design and implement a continuum of K-12 support that will serve as a model for other school districts in Tennessee.
According to Christian, the project recognizes that children’s brains grow and develop up to the age of 25 and captures the power of year-to-year resilience at work throughout the K-12 journey. .
Christian says the goal is to help educators respond to these students and provide immediate and proactive interventions. Students who have experienced ACEs often express anger, fear, and restlessness.
“As educators, we want to turn those feelings into a sense of hope and healing,” she said.
Researchers from ETSU’s Strong BRAIN Institute are involved in this partnership. The institute, which promotes awareness and empirical study of ACEs, was established in 2020 with a donation from Ballad Health.
Megan Quinn, ETSU faculty member and member of the Strong BRAIN Institute, provided information on the link between neuroscience and the physiological impact of trauma on students. Christian and Dr. Virginia Foley spent the spring semester providing training to Unicoi County managers on how to implement strategic plans for learning and evaluation.
Christian added, “We are honored to partner with Unicoi County Schools and work collaboratively to support school leaders as they pioneer innovative new systems. Tools and evidence-based practices will connect the power of multiple resources working together for students. The role of an educator is to understand and engage the brain much like a neurologist.
“This work embodies the idea of teaching the whole heart and mind of the child and connects medical research with educational practices,” she added. “The Resilient School Project seeks to understand how to build strong brains while capturing the hearts of students for a bright and productive future. There are no limits for students and schools in our communities.