Regional professional development day provides educators lessons in trauma-informed instruction

What happened? More than 300 teachers from Mt. Pleasant Public Schools gathered with educators from around the region to participate in a Regional Professional Development Day hosted by the Gratiot-Isabella RESD Nov. 8. Teachers learned about supporting children, trauma-informed instruction, and educator self-care at the event held at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort Entertainment Hall. 
The program highlighted cultural elements from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which provided funding through its 2 percent revenue-sharing grants.
“We began with the Tribal Grand Entry with flag carriers and the Grand Entry song,” said Kathy Peasley, Ph.D., associate superintendent of instruction at Gratiot-Isabella RESD. “Following the Grand Entry, members of the tribe performed a flag song and the Tribal Observer managing editor sang the national anthem. The day ended with William Johnson, interim director and curator at the Ziibiwing Center, sharing the history of the Tribe in the area and resources for teachers. The Saginaw Chippewa Strong Heart Singers provided a travel song to close out the day.”
Who was there? More than 940 people registered for the event, including staff from several local school districts and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The entire teaching, administration and many support staff from the following area school districts participated: Ashley Community Schools; Beal City Public Schools; Breckenridge Community Schools; Mt. Pleasant Public Schools; Sacred Heart Academy; and St. Joseph the Worker School. Additionally teams from the following districts attended: Alma; Shepherd; Fulton; Renaissance Public School Academy; and St. Joseph ISD.

Why is it important? “Nationwide educators are seeing some challenging behaviors as a result of trauma associated with the pandemic and children not being able to participate in all the traditional activities associated with school and preparing to enter school,” said Peasley.

“Our goal is to help educators understand underlying reasons for children’s behavior and how to address the behavior. We’re also focusing on educator self-care. Our teachers need to take care of themselves so they’re at their best to educate and care for their students.”

Peasley continued, “When working with challenging students we have to be at our best. Keynote speaker Dr. Jim Harris stressed to participants that self care was not about relaxation or escape but rather about optimization. Teachers need to believe that they matter and that they can ‘move the needle for all kids.’ He stressed that before we can learn strategies for supporting our students we need to learn how to control those things that are within our control and not focus on the things that we cannot control. And, even when focusing on the things that we can control, we need to prioritize them so that we are not trying unsuccessfully to do everything at once.”

How will this help area students? “Educators in the GIRESD region are beginning their third year of working with keynote speaker Dr. Jim Harris on developing school wide systems of support for behavior. This professional development day was part of longer term, ongoing professional learning with Dr. Harris,” shared Peasley.

“For this professional development, Dr. Harris talked with educators about the importance of building relationships with students and the ways to develop community within the school. He talked about some of the common practices in schools, such as suspension and expulsion, that have a negative impact on students and some alternative ways to address children with challenging behavior. He was very clear with educators that there is no simple solution, or universal curriculum, that will allow us to solve all the challenges that many of our children face as we move into this ‘post-pandemic’ period.”

How can the community support area educators with these topics? “Schools cannot do it alone,” said Peasley. “The best thing that the community can do is engage with their community school in positive ways. It truly ‘takes a village’ and we need parents as collaborative partners in educating the children in the community.”

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With 15 years of professional media experience, Courtney Jerome has found a passion for storytelling and showcasing our region in a positive light. She's written stories for television broadcasts, numerous magazines, and digital publications. In addition, she owns a boutique creative marketing agency that focuses on social media, photo, and video storytelling for small businesses across Michigan and the country — Contact Courtney, the managing editor of Epicenter, at