Trauma Engaged Schools Inservice with Chatham & Hoonah

AASB STEPS Alaska Promise Neighborhood Newsletter

Many school staff that work with students that have experienced trauma understand how learning is affected by trauma. If students who’ve experienced trauma (intense, prolonged and/or multiple adverse experiences) encounter stress in the classroom, they will not be able access their higher level thinking brain as their thinking responds in such a way that they either act out or disengage depending on how they tend to respond to stress.

To create more equitable schools, the five STEPS school districts and community partners are working together on trauma-informed planning and coaching for school staff and also working on school-wide trauma engaged practices that directly impact students, are being carried out in all five school districts. With pandemic related stress, this work is more relevant than ever. 

Before schools reopened this fall, Chatham and Hoonah City Schools districts decided that this year they needed to prepare staff for the return of students. Students and staff had experienced sudden closures, pandemic stress, and drastically different learning environments. They wanted to both provide support to their teachers for knowledge and practices to help their students deal with the stress but also to be able to work more effectively as a team during such adaptive times. All staff participated in the inservice and had a chance to consider the importance of relationships, a common understanding of trauma, and common language. 

The in-service provided staff some practical tools to systematically evaluate and consider ways they are building relationships with students and working to understand student needs during these times. The trainings also included some simple ways to integrate some small, bite-size ways to regulate themselves which they could also share and teach their students.

While school openings have varied, from in-person to distance learning, what has been consistent is that our staff and teachers are doing a lot to support each other and their students. The trauma- engaged practices are helping mitigate the stressful impacts of the coronavirus “normal” and have helped school staff in every subject area, in each teaching delivery model. 

To learn more about some of the SEL practices and tools, please check out the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development’s Transforming Schools web page with links to the framework, toolkit, e-modules (online trauma courses) and registration for the Trauma toolkit webinars at this link: The Trauma toolkit webinars are held each Tuesday from 3:30 – 5:00 pm. Prior sessions have been recorded and available to view.

AASB’s Heather Coulehan and Lisa Worl supported the trauma engaged and SEL work within STEPS and Culturally Responsive Embedded Social Emotional Learning districts. They are available to support administrators and trauma Champions to develop plans, provide trauma informed resources, host peer learning community meetings and trauma engaged schools in-service trainings.