Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms Focus of Conference

August 7, 2019

In August, a first of its kind conference in Rochester will offer local teachers and school leaders the opportunity to explore the benefits of creating trauma-sensitive classrooms.

Hosted by the St. John Fisher College Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education and funded through a $23,907 grant from the William & Sheila Konar Foundation, the Rochester Area Teacher Leaders in Trauma Sensitive Classrooms Collaboration Conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13, in the Golisano Gateway Midlevel on the Fisher campus.

The conference brings together nearly 125 educators, most of whom who have engaged in the Creating Trauma Sensitive School Communities (CTSSC) training program. The School of Education launched CTSSC in 2017, piloting the training program at Longridge Elementary School in the Greece Central School District. The four-part workshop series draws on proven theories, frameworks, and best practices for reducing the impact of trauma on students, building their resiliency, and giving them supportive tools to learn and grow. To date, it has expanded to reach Rochester’s 12 charter schools, as well as suburban, rural, and urban districts.

Dr. Susan Hildenbrand, associate dean of the School of Education and an expert in inclusive education, co-teaching, and positive classroom management, developed and delivered the workshop curriculum in collaboration with adjunct faculty member, Dr. Donna Riter, a well-known behavior specialist.

Hildenbrand said that research shows there are academic and emotional implications for students who have suffered from trauma, which can stem from the separation or divorce of parents, death of a loved one, domestic violence or neglect, or effects of living in poverty, among other experiences. Trauma-sensitive practices call on teachers to have a deeper understanding of the social, emotional, physical, and socioeconomic lives their students have outside of the classroom, in turn creating school communities where behavioral issues are managed by problem-solving.

She sees the conference as an opportunity to provide more in-depth, hands-on strategies that educators can use to support students experiencing the impact of trauma. Attendees will also hear a keynote address by Jessica Johnson, Wisconsin’s 2014 Elementary Principal of the Year, who is a national expert on creating safe and healthy learning settings and professional self-care and balance.

 “It’s unique to bring together representatives from so many different districts to celebrate their commitment to this work and brainstorm together on how we can be better partners in developing trauma-sensitive schools,” said Hildenbrand.