CONWAY — SAU 9 is the site of a two-day summit this week, with more than 200 educators from across the Granite State coming here to focus on “Social Emotional Learning in Trauma-Informed Schools.”
Pine Tree School, in Center Conway is hosting the conference, which started Thursday, running 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily and featuring speakers from across the United States.
Presenting today at the summit is recently retired Conway Elementary Principal Brian Hastings.
“We’re learning more and more about trauma-informed schools,” Hastings said. “We’re talking about social, emotional learning. We have to make sure that we have the optimal conditions in our schools that create optimal conditions for learning. Just good teaching isn’t going to do it.”
“It’s a huge conference,” said Superintendent Kevin Richard said. “(Assistant Superintendent) Kadie Wilson has done a tremendous amount of work.”
Richard said 50 teachers from SAU 9 are attending the conference. “We were able to use some grant money to help bring it together,” he said. “It’s more of a regional conference.”
Hastings, who has started his own education consulting business, said: “Students walk into our schools every day with a diverse array of needs and we’re beginning to recognize it more and more.”
Last fall, he told the Conway School Board: “Trauma is an event or series of events that occur that can interrupt a person’s normal growth and development and functioning.”
How does one determine if trauma exists in a child or adult?
Hastings said: “The medical community was becoming very concerned because it was seeing a lot of patients, older patients that had depression, heart disease and all sort of other ailments, and they began to have conversations with each other around ‘when did these ailments start?’ Can they be traced back to childhood?
“So, they did a lengthy study at the Center for Disease Control and the Kaiser Family Foundation, and it’s called the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). They came out of that with a long list of potentially traumatic experiences for people, and they boiled it down to 10.”
They are: physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; alcohol or drug abuse by a parent; having a mentally ill parent; divorce; incarceration of a parent; and childhood domestic violence.
SAU 9 is partnering with the University of New Hampshire Professional Development & Training and the Horace Mann Educators Corp. on the summit. The cost is $50 for SAU 9 employees and $100 for others.
Licensed psychologist Cassie Yackley of the Yackley Consulting Group in Nebraska delivered the first keynote, “What is the ‘Trauma-Responsive School?’” on Thursday morning.
Hastings is set to deliver the second keynote address today from 8:30-9:30 a.m. It will be followed by a round of breakout groups, lunch and closing remarks by Yackley.
Hastings’ presentation is titled “Balance.”
Explaining his presentation in the conference literature, he asks: “Is your backpack full? Too full? During the school year, do you find that you sometimes get out of balance with your own social, emotional and physical needs? With our busy lives and many responsibilities, we can get out of balance very quickly. The balance between work and play, rest, exercise, food etc.can be challenging. If we are out of equilibrium, it will affect everyone who comes in contact with us. Balance helps us be our best educator self so that we can be fully engaged and present for the students in our care. We will take a deep dive into this topic, and share and talk about ways we can stay healthy throughout the school year.”
Hastings said: “If someone were to ask me, do we have trauma-informed schools, I’d tell them, we’re not there yet but we have a lot of things in place in Conway.”
Presenters for the breakout sessions include: Hannah Mariotti, mental health counselor, and Sarah Wagner, school psychologist, both of UNH; Stefanie Piatkiewicz of Mindful Practices, Chicago.; Ellen Desmond, from the state Department of Education; Eric Mann, from the Southeastern Regional Education Service Center; Alison Memoli, school counselor, and Beth Cole, special education teacher, both from John H. Fuller Elementary; Tracey Vokey, family support liaison, and Anne Longver, school counselor, from Pine Tree; Lynda True-Carter, a school counselor from SAU 20 in Gorham; and Anne-Marie Gagne, a Title I teacher in SAU 3 in Berlin.
At the recent school board meeting, board member Cheri Sullivan asked if the presentations would be videotaped for future educational benefits.
Richard said there are no plans to videotape the summit.
“I think sometimes the conversation may lead to some case studies that may be identifying in nature,” he said. “You want people to feel free to discuss their experiences.”