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Trauma: Impact on Students

Emily Klemme

Saint Marys University of Minnesota

Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs

Portfolio Entry for Wisconsin Teacher Standards Three and Five

EDUW 694 Classroom Environment

Instructor: Catherine Anderson

April 01, 2017

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Wisconsin Teaching Standard #3: Teachers understand that children

learn differently. The teacher understands how pupils differ in their approaches to

learning and the barriers that impede learning and can adapt instruction to meet the

diverse needs of pupils, including those with disabilities and exceptionalities

Knowledge The teacher understands and can provide adaptions for areas of exceptionality in

learning-including learning disabilities, visual and perceptual difficulties, and special, physical, or

mental challenges.

Dispositions The teacher believes that all children can learn at high levels and persists in helping

all children achieve success.

Performances The teacher can identify when and how to access appropriate services or

resources to meet exceptional learning needs.

Wisconsin Teaching Standard #5: Teachers know how to manage a classroom.

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The teacher uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior

to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active

engagement in learning, and self-motivation.

Knowledge The teacher understands the principles of effective classroom management and can

use a range of strategies to promote positive relationships, cooperation, and purposeful learning in

the classroom.

Dispositions The teacher takes responsibility for establishing a positive climate in the classroom

and participates in maintaining such a climate in the school as a whole.

Performances The teacher analyzes the classroom environment and makes decisions and

adjustments to enhance social relationships, student motivation and engagement, and productive

work. The teacher organizes, prepares students for, and monitors independent and group work that

allows for full and varied participation of all individuals.

Danielson Framework for Teaching

Domain 2: The Classroom Environment

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Component 2a: Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

Teacher interaction with students

Student interaction with students

Element Teacher interaction with students


Self-Reflection Assessment of Classroom Environment Related to WTS 3&5

I am currently a Site Director for a 21st Century Community Learning Center at Nicolet

Elementary School, a high-poverty and trauma-sensitive elementary school located in Green Bay,

WI. The after-school program at Nicolet, run by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay, is in

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partnership with the Green Bay Area Public School District and one of ten 21CCLC programs

within the urban, Green Bay community. We are fully grant-funded through Fund 80 dollars, which

includes an extensive evaluation and reapplication process every five years.

During the 2014-15 school year, Nicolet received a failing report card grade. Our after-

school program, along with teachers, are working tirelessly this school year to address this issue

and help close the achievement gap. There is a great need for our program, as we currently have 30

students on our waiting list. Teachers and other school staff complete referral forms, which allows

the after-school program to enroll students based on highest need.

There are currently 475 students of varying ethnic groups that attend Nicolet. While mainly

Hispanic and African-American, the school also includes Caucasian, Somali, Asian, and American

Indian students. Of these 475 students, 94% are living in poverty, 80% are minorities, and 40%

have limited English skills. Roughly 70 of the K-5 students attend the after-school program. Our

groups are broken up by grade level with a 1:10 staff to student ratio. The staff serving the 4th-5th

graders, provides academic and enrichment programming for 14 students (six male and eight

female). Focusing on this age group, roughly 90% of the students are performing well below grade

level in math and reading. Five students in this group have an IEP (one student with severe autism,

two students with EBD, and two with ADHD).

We are fortunate to have a great level of support from special education teachers to assist

with our program and ensure the needs of individual students are being met. It often can be

challenging, however, due to very little access to resources after the contracted school day. For the

mainly high school and college students working for the after-school program, behavior and

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classroom management is the greatest challenge. Our staff does however, receive trainings in areas

of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), CHAMPS, Non-violent Crisis

Intervention, Trauma Informed Care, AVMR Math, Social Emotional Learning and other various

after-school curriculum trainings.

Our 2.5-hour program starts with a hot meal in the cafeteria. This is the location all students

meet when the bell rings after school. From there, students are taken into separate classrooms and

broken up into three groups: K-1st, 2nd-3rd grade, and 4th-5th grade. They are given enrichment time,

gym/recess activities, homework support, a literacy curriculum called LitArt, and AVMR games.

Some choice is built in to their day, but each day is structured and students are very familiar with

the schedule. We collaborate with many community partners, including UW-extension, 4H, Green

Bay Botanical Gardens, The National Railroad Museum, Green Bay Children Museum, and Girl

Scouts. These partners offer outreach programs at the school and provide opportunities for students

to attend field trips to their facility.

The greatest challenge we face after school is getting teachers to understand the benefits our

program has on students. We are moving around to different classrooms after school, which leads

to inconsistency and lack of structure for our students. Unless teachers fully understand the need

our program has on students or the quality programs we are able to provide to improve academic

performance, they are generally displeased with our program using their classroom. During the

school day, I strongly advocate for the program by communicating with teachers and sharing out

the various programs we are working on. I find that building relationships with teachers and having

open communication has allowed program staff and students to feel successful after school. My

personal philosophy of classroom environment after school is providing students with a safe and

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positive environment, that advocates and establishes personalized learning, and ensures students

have structure and consistency within the program.

Referencing Charlotte Danielsons Domain 2, working with students who have a history of

trauma and come to school with a variety of stressors, is challenging. This tends to be even more

challenging after a long school day, where students are then required to continue more schooling

for another 2.5 hours in the building. Students are coming from un-structured homes and many

have minimal parental support. We see behaviors carried over from the school day, often escalating

as the evening goes on. Expectations and response to misbehaviors are very much the same after

school as they are during the school day.

Our greatest strength is providing students with a safe environment after school that focuses

heavily on respect and rapport. For several students, parents/guardians require them to attend the

program. A select few, however, are given the choice to go home after school. This is when

building and maintaining positive relationships between our staff and students becomes a

significant part of what we do. We establish a fun (and safe) learning environment after school that

sets us apart from the typical school day. Program staff are extremely patient and empathetic with

our students, having an understanding that the misbehaviors that are displayed may be stemming

from stressors associated with trauma within the home and/or basic needs not being met.

With the number of misbehaviors that we manage after school with our students, trauma

needs to be the center of our attention. Students are experiencing stressors in the home and then

coming to school, required to learn, and show expected behaviors. Therefore, I am interested in

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learning more on the topic of trauma and how this exceptional condition impacts brain

development, behavior, and learning.

Essential Question to Guide Learning Process and Growth

After reflecting and assessing my classroom environment using the Wisconsin Teaching Standards

and Danielsons Framework for Teaching, the essential question that will guide my learning and

professional growth is, What strategies can I use to support my students after learning how trauma

affects their brain development, behavior, and learning?

Synthesis of Research

Reflection of Classroom Reflection of Classroom

I currently oversee a 21st Century Community Learning Center at Nicolet Elementary

School. Of the 475 students that attend Nicolet, 70 of these students in grades K-5 are enrolled in

the Afterschool Program. The need is tremendously high, with 94% of students living in poverty,

80% are minorities, and 40% have limited English skills. Students come to school with stressors

associated with poverty, homelessness, trauma, and other issues within the suburban community.

With continuous efforts to turn this failing school around, school staff are being properly trained

to work with students coming from traumatic backgrounds. The Afterschool program is assisting to

meet the needs of all students and closing the achievement gap.

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I have recently gone through the Trauma Informed Care training, offered through the Green

Bay Area Public School District. This training has given my staff and I the tools that are crucial for

understanding the background of our students and the stressors that they carry with them to school

each day. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study was given a great deal of attention,

which provided staff with an overview of the types of childhood trauma experiences students face,

and the approach one must take to effectively support students.

Introduction of Exceptional Condition

While trauma is a normal reaction to a negative event, the effects can be extremely severe.

Children are especially vulnerable and may be unable to cope with the stress. Data from the

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (Felitti, et al., 1998, as cited in Craig, 2016) suggests, one

in three children may have an early trauma history (p. 29). The stress from living in poverty, along

with accidents, maltreatment, medical procedures, and/or community violence are contributing

factors to childhood trauma. Craig (2016) stated A childs brain architecture changes as a result of

trauma. These changes jeopardize childrens ability to direct their attention, regulate their emotions

and behavior, and form positive relationships with teachers. Their attention is on survival rather

than on the content of instruction (p. 30).

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Reflection of Professional Learning

Upon completion of my research, I will have a better understanding of trauma, and how it

impacts brain development, behavior, and learning. With a deeper understanding, staff working

with students in the Afterschool Program can aide in the support of providing students with a safe

and positive learning environment. De-escalation strategies will be valuable for staff, to assist

students with self-monitoring skills and form positive relationships.

In the five years that I have been working in a trauma-sensitive school, I have witnessed

students going through incredibly traumatic experiences. I have helped them cope with the

stressors of the events, by providing students with appropriate coping skills and tools to relive

stress and a safe learning environment. I have also incorporated Social Emotional Learning into our

daily schedule, to ensure students have a chance to share how their day is going and address any

issues that arise. This has created positive relationships with staff and students.

Relevant Research on Trauma

Childhood trauma is an emotionally painful or distressful event that a child experiences,

leaving mental and/or physical effects. According to Felitti & Anda (2009), more than half of the

students in public schools have faced traumatic or adverse experiences and one in six struggles

with complex trauma (p. 2). With those findings, it is suggested that teachers need to be aware of

how trauma affects students social, emotional, and academic growth. For those children living in

dysfunctional living situations, complex trauma is a cause for concern. This type of trauma is

reoccurring, causing diminished well-being into adulthood. The likelihood that educators will

encounter children experiencing trauma is relatively high, which makes it extremely crucial that

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professional development/trainings and familiarity around trauma is made a priority in schools, in

order to ensure students feel safe and are successful learners.

Lacoe (2013) believes children are too scared to learn at school because they have a hard

time trusting the environment that they are in. Forming relationships can also be difficult for

children experiencing trauma, as they tend to perceive their environment and those around them to

be a threat. This explains why children experiencing trauma have poor academic performance and

trouble with concentration. Language and communication, social and emotional regulation,

building relationships, and play can be affected. Cole, S.F., J.G. OBrien, M.G. Gadd, J. Ristuccia,

D.L. Wallace, & M. Gregory. (2005) notes that children create barriers to relationships and

emotional distance between themselves and others to prevent further injury (p. 4). According to

Teicher et al., (2003), severe stress can alter the brain and impede development. Stress hormones

repeatedly flood the brain and have a negative effect on a range of executive functions, weakening

childrens concentration, language processing, sequencing of information, decision making, and

memory. Children tend to show signs of aggression and self-destruction (p. 2-3).

Martin, Cromer, & Freyd (2010) stated that educators should think differently in the

classroom in trauma-sensitive schools. Instead of assuming a student is being willfully defiant,

educators should filter the behaviors through an entirely different lens, understanding them to be

manifestations of trauma (p. 3). Supporting resilience is key to a trauma-sensitive school, and the

support needs to be school-wide to be effective. According to Naparstek (2004), passivity with no

interest in looking at the long-term or even at tomorrow, inability to concentrate, and lashing out

verbally or physically are common behavioral effects of trauma (p. 2). Horsman (2000) suggests

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that frequent absences, spacing out, and living in a constant state of turmoil are also common (p.


Research-based Strategies

Luckily, children are resilient and their brains are flexible. There are strategies that

are shown to be successful when working with students experiencing trauma. Over time, if students

feel safe in the environment that they are in and strong relationships are established, the severity

can dramatically be reduced. According to Stacks & Oshio (2009); Stubenbort, Cohen, & Trybalski

(2010), children who have secure attachments learn to trust their emotions and trust their

understanding of the world around them (p. 2).

With the appropriate interventions and their ability to control their own emotions and

behaviors, academic performance and behaviors can progress. Trauma-sensitive schools are

providing students with a safe environment, which allows them to thrive and be successful.

Calming practices such as yoga, breathing techniques, and mindfulness activities are beneficial for

students, and are considered to be a safe approach for students experiencing trauma. According to

Desautels (2016), movement is critical to learning, as it activates several areas of the brain at once

while calming the brain. Soma (2016) suggests, Self-regulation can be a major challenge for

students suffering from trauma. Some kids with trauma are growing up with emotionally

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unavailable parents and havent learned to self-soothe, so they may develop distracting behaviors

and have trouble staying focused for long periods. To help them cope, schedule regular brain

breaks. Tell the class at the beginning of the day when there will be breaksfor free time, to play a

game or to stretch.

Not all strategies work for all students. Finding their individual strengths and using positive

guidance will allow educators to feel successful in the classroom. Building up their self-esteem,

being sensitive to their triggers, and creating/maintaining consistent routines and procedures in the

classroom will allow students to feel successful and can help children even with the most

challenging behaviors. It is crucial that educators remain patient and avoid becoming frustrated

with students that have experienced trauma. Patience and healthy interactions with students are

going to be the key to supporting challenging behaviors. Horsman (2000) noted, the task is not to

encourage educators to believe that they must learn to diagnose who has been traumatized and then

treat them differently from other learners. The task is to teach with a pedagogy of awareness that

provides ongoing support for the needs of all learners (p. 2).

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Educators can approach students with a better understanding of trauma, when they are

aware of the trauma-related behaviors students bring to school. By promoting resilience, providing

intervention strategies, and creating positive relationships, students can overcome trauma and have

a successful educational experience. Ongoing training and flexibility in the classroom can be

extremely beneficial for students experiencing trauma.

Professional Implications of Research

Through my research, I have learned a great deal around the affects that trauma has on brain

development, behavior, and learning. I have a better understanding of the stressors that students

come to school with and I can do a much better job at supporting my students. Although behaviors

can be extremely severe with traumatized students, I will work on being more patient and setting

students up for success in the classroom. Knowing now that creating a safe environment for

learning and establishing positive relationships will benefit students experiencing trauma, I can

strengthen my teaching strategies and create interventions that allow students to thrive in their

learning environment.

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Research-based Action Plan

Action Plan Summary

First and foremost, I will ensure that my staff and I are educated on Trauma Informed Care.

Although somewhat difficult to conduct (due to the availability of my part-time staff in the

afterschool program), if there is professional development around trauma I will ensure to take what

I learned and train my staff.

Next, I will incorporate strategies I have learned through my research into the afterschool

program. These strategies include but ae not limited to: breathing/cool down techniques, fidgets,

yoga, and mindfulness activities.

Finally, I will maintain a great partnership and communicate regularly with school day staff.

What may be working during the school day could be successful afterschool and a consistent

practice for students.

Anticipated Implementation

I will implement my action plan by evaluating what we are already doing and making

changes/improving on our current strategies. Along with keeping these current strategies in

place, I will look further into what the school day is working on. Communicating with the

school day staff, specifically teachers and the social worker, I will start working with

students that I believe have the biggest need.

While maintaining confidentiality, I will share information with my staff on what is

working for our students during the school day and making sure we are carrying these

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strategies over to the afterschool program. I will implement strategies that ensure the success

of all learners.

Anticipated Outcomes

My anticipated outcome is that students will feel successful afterschool. I can already

see the improvement that yoga and breathing techniques will have on a number of our

students with extreme behaviors. On a weekly basis, when communicating with teachers

about their students behaviors in the afterschool program, I learn a great deal about their

home life. More often than not, the behaviors stem from issues outside of school and

struggle to communicate with others. Teaching students the appropriate

behaviors/expectations and maintaining trust will generally have a positive outcome.

The relationships that my staff and the students have afterschool are incredibly

strong, so I foresee these strategies to be successful and students feeling safer at school and

overcoming traumatic events.

Post-assessment: Reflection
What Worked (or anticipate what will work) and Why

1. I have learned that by forming relationships with students and showing empathy, students

will be successful learners and can feel safe in their learning environment.

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2. I have learned that all students learn and thrive in many ways. Students are coming from

unstable living situations and will experience trauma differently from their peers. Getting to know

each students strengths and triggers, and providing the appropriate interventions, is going to

benefit both the student and the educator.

What Did Not Work (or anticipate what will not work) and Why

1. I foresee my high school and college staff in the afterschool program struggling to meet

the needs of all students experiencing trauma. Due to the high number of students in the school that

need interventions, and having very little professional development around trauma, staff will most

likely experience some levels of stress and frustration with several students.

2. Being after school, the level of support is not there like it is during the school day.

Myself, along with my high school and college-age staff, are not able to provide the appropriate

interventions that certain students need. Although I can communicate with the social worker the

next day, our program is not able to offer what a student may need during these hours.

My Next Steps

1. My next step is to take what I learned through my research and continue to work on it

during my teaching practice. This being my last year as a Site Director for a 21CCLC Afterschool

Program, I will be able to implement new strategies and work with students on a greater level.

Having the level of support during the school day will be beneficial.

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2. Having a close relationship with the teachers during the school day, my next step would

be to more involved in their staff meetings and see how I can take part in future trauma

meetings/professional development that would benefit the afterschool program. I can take what I

have learned through my research and help develop new strategies that can be implemented both

during the school day and in the afterschool program. I can work closely with individual students

and provide similar interventions/strategies. I will continue to view students with misbehaviors

through a different lens, while being able to identify their triggers.

Examples of Artifacts

Artifact 1

GoNoodle Links: The following links on Go Noodle are examples of mindfulness activities that

can help students experiencing trauma. These short brain breaks can calm the mind and body and

help children heal. Often when students come to school, they struggle focusing/concentrating

because they are dealing with traumatic events in their living environment. These short links can

help start their day off on a positive note.

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Find Peace

o https://app.gonoodle.com/channels/think-about-it/find-peace?source=search

Find Joy

o https://app.gonoodle.com/channels/think-about-it/find-joy-1?source=search


o https://app.gonoodle.com/channels/maximo/propeller?source=search

Whirling Happiness

o https://app.gonoodle.com/channels/maximo/whirling-happiness?source=search

Artifact 2

ACE Score Quiz: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) is a research study that was conducted to

measure childhood trauma and determine the long-term effects.

Prior to your 18th birthday:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often Swear at you, insult you, put
you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often Push, grab, slap, or throw
something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __

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3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever Touch or fondle you or have you
touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse
with you?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
4. Did you often or very often feel that No one in your family loved you or thought you were
important or special? or Your family didnt look out for each other, feel close to each other, or
support each other?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
5. Did you often or very often feel that You didnt have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes,
and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take
you to the doctor if you needed it?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
7. Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes,
often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly
hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt
suicide? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
10. Did a household member go to prison?
No___If Yes, enter 1 __
Now add up your Yes answers: _ This is your ACE Score

Artifact 3

DPI Website for Educators: Tony Evers, State Superintendent provides several resources to

educate schools on trauma. Among these resources are a toolkit for educators and a guide to

provide Calmer Classrooms and creating a Sanctuary in Schools.



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Craig, S. E. (2016). The Trauma-Sensitive Teacher. Educational Leadership, 74(1), 28-32.

Desautels, D. (2016, October 25). 7 Ways to Calm a Young Brain in Trauma. Retrieved from


Sitler, H.C. (2009). Teaching with Awareness: The Hidden Effects of Trauma on Learning.

Clearing House, 82(3), 119-124.

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Soma, C. K. (2016, February 24). 10 Things About Childhood Trauma Every Teacher Needs to

Know. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/10-things-about-childhood-trauma-


Statman-Weil, K. k. (2015). Creating Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms. YC: Young Children, 70(2),


Terrasi, S., & de Galarce, P.C. (2017). Trauma and learning in Americas classrooms.

Phi Delta Kappan, 98(6), 35. doi: 10.1177/0031721717696476

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