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National Heritage Academies School Leader Discusses Trauma in Education in Light of Mental Health Awareness Month

Kelsey Pardue  |  May 28, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 28, 2020
CONTACT
Kelsey Pardue
kpardue@nhaschools.com
o: (616) 464-2235
 
BURTON, Mich., May 28, 2020 – When stressing the importance of education, too often the experiences that prevent at-risk children from learning are overlooked. Aaron Williams, principal at Burton Glen Charter Academy, recently sat down on Mind Matters with Dr. Michele to discuss trauma in education and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

After years of personal experience and professional development, Williams has become well-versed and passionate in the area of trauma. According to the Child Mind Institute, trauma can create obstacles in a child’s learning experience, such as trouble forming relationships with teachers, poor self-regulation, hypervigilance, and executive function challenges.

Williams’ conversation on the matter is relevant given that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, observed in the United States since 1949 to raise awareness, fight the stigma, educate the public, and more. Mental health is directly impacted by trauma in unique ways and based on a variety of factors. Williams explained, “Mental health issues don’t exist where trauma is absent. Trauma breeds mental health issues.”

Rukshana Ilahi, director of special education at NHA, discussed why it’s equally important to provide academic and mental or emotional support to students. “As educators, it’s important that we understand how trauma may impact a student's ability to learn and interact. In order for students to learn, we must first meet their social and emotional needs,” she shared. “During this time of school closures we have often heard the phrase: ‘Maslow before Bloom,’ meaning teachers must first address students' physiological, security, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs first.” 

Research has shown that students learn best when they know that they are cared for, which makes creating a safe and caring classroom and school culture of utmost importance for students and school communities.

For Williams, it always goes back to relationships. He poses the question, “Are we prioritizing academic support when we should also be balancing mental support?” In some cases, there are issues beyond the classroom that need to be addressed. To Williams, combatting trauma in education is hard work, but it’s heart work.
 
For resources on child trauma, visit nctsn.org.
 
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About Burton Glen Charter Academy:
Burton Glen Charter Academy, managed by National Heritage Academies, is a free public charter school serving students in kindergarten through eighth-grade in the Burton area.