Teaching the Whole Child in Ritenour

  • Students at Wyland Elementary meditate to refocus. Ritenour teachers, counselors and principals are focusing on trauma-informed approaches to support all students in the classroom.

    Ritenour educators approach instruction with an additional focus on helping their students develop healthy relationships with each other and with adults, managing their behaviors better and learning strategies to calm themselves when their anxiety rises. Educators and support staff in all Ritenour schools receive professional development training on understanding the effects of trauma on the brain, how to recognize signs of students who may be acting out as a result of trauma and how to help them with self-calming strategies so they can learn better in the classroom.

    “Research is showing that as many as one in four children have experienced significant trauma in their lives, which affects the brain and the ability to learn and regulate emotions,” said Julie Hahn, assistant superintendent for data, interventions and student support. “If we want to make sure that every student is learning to his or her potential, we must recognize that we need to help them in different ways. We need to teach to the whole child.”

    Elementary schools in Ritenour include a Refocus Room where identified students can work individually for a short time with a social-emotional intervention assistant instead of being referred to the office. The Refocus Room is not a punishment for a student, but rather a place that offers them space to work with sensory objects, exercise equipment and a trained staff member to help them calm down, create a plan and rejoin their class to continue their learning.

    “Teaching the whole child in my classroom is not only teaching the core subjects but really digging deeper and teaching the behaviors that create positive social responsibility in order for them to be successful later in life, said Wyland Elementary teacher Lauren Openlander.

    Wyland Elementary Principal Dr. Lisa Greenstein said she already has noticed a change in some students as they have learned new strategies to manage their behaviors and refocus on learning.

    “We have found that our students are really open to learning about mindfulness and exercises to calm themselves,” said Greenstein.