CARBONDALE – The Illinois Education Association (IEA) and Partnership for Resilience (PFR) are teaming up through Resilient Southern Illinois (RSI) to put support in place for students dealing with childhood trauma. RSI is partnering with 17 school districts throughout 16 Southern Illinois counties. Through RSI teachers and other school staff will for the first time be given resources to better assist students dealing with trauma, so those students can better manage their emotions and ultimately succeed in school.
“Together, we are working as a community to help improve students’ lives,” IEA Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Jane Morris said. “It’s so important to educate the whole child, and through this program we are making sure that’s happening across all of Southern Illinois. We are building strong students, strong schools and strong communities.”
Students in classrooms across Southern Illinois face profound obstacles to learning due to trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include one or more of the following: verbal, physical or sexual abuse, family dysfunction (an incarcerated, mentally ill, or substance-abusing family member), domestic violence or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation. Participating schools will organize school-based resilience teams of teachers, administrators, union leaders and school support staff that will receive ongoing training, coaching and resources from the PFR and the IEA. Additionally, RSI will provide tools and resources to build partnerships with community leaders and organizations to help meet the needs of school children and their parents.
“Both the need and the opportunity for change are great in southern Illinois”, said Tom Lenz, the PFR’s Coordinator. “We’ve been continually impressed by the willingness of administrators, union leaders and teachers to engage the science of resilience and make their schools trauma-sensitive.”
RSI began in June when more than 170 educators gathered together for a three-day training to discuss the effects of toxic stress on students, identify stressors and issues, and offer strategies for teachers as they assist students who have been traumatized. The approach is modeled after the success of the cross-sector “Southland Initiative” which the Partnership for Resilience organized to address childhood trauma in the southern suburbs of Cook County, Illinois.
“Students who walk into our classrooms today have more ACEs than in the years past. Being part of this program and part of my school’s resiliency team allows me to receive training that helps me to better meet the needs of the whole child,” CCSD 140 Unity Point teacher Amanda Hilt said. “We are able to focus on academic growth as well as the student’s social emotional needs. The team is able to bring back ideas to share with our staff to ensure that as a school we are meeting the individual needs, both academic and social emotional, of our students.”
“The ACEs adverse childhood experiences students face today are real. As we have been educating our staff about this program, the adults have had “aha moments” as they get an understanding of addressing these stressors with students,” Trico CUSD 176 teacher Cheryl Lodge said. “The stressors of life we know as adults begin to look altogether different when we look at them through the eyes of a child. It take on a whole new view. Children don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care about them, and our Trico family CARES about our kids.”
Over the next year, district resilience teams will receive ongoing support in the school districts of Du Quoin Community Unit School District 300, Eldorado Unit School District 4, Gallatin County Community Unit School District 7, Giant City Community Consolidated School District 130, Grayville Community Unit School District 1, Harrisburg Community Unit School District 3, Herrin Community Unit School District 4, Johnston City Unit 1, Murphysboro Community Unit School District 186, ROE 21 Project ECHO, Sparta School District 140, Trico Community Unit School District 176, Tri-County Special Education, Unity Point School District 140, Vienna High School 13-3, Vienna Elementary 55 and Zeigler Royalton Community Unit School District 188. Learn more about the IEA’s trauma informed work and the Partnership for Resilience.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.