JAHMI Health & Wellness, Inc. is the location for the monthly Inside Passage Mental Health Speaker Series. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

JAHMI Health & Wellness, Inc. is the location for the monthly Inside Passage Mental Health Speaker Series. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Healing in the classroom: Juneau school tries new tack to help students

Glacier Valley staff talk about a different way of teaching and healing

Just as a house built on a shattered foundation won’t stand straight, mounting research points toward a child’s earliest years as setting a pattern that will last their whole life.

“What happens early in your life has really big and dramatic impact on the later parts of your life,” said Alex Newton, the counselor at Glacier Valley Elementary School – Sít’ Eetí Shaanáx. “All development for kids starts with their early caregiver experience.”

Newton and GVE principal Lucy Potter spoke at the JAMHI Health and Wellness building on Tuesday night as the most recent part of the Inside Passages Mental Health Speakers Series.

GVE has been part of a program with Washington State University to implement the CLEAR framework: Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resilience. CLEAR is meant to partner schools with consultants who help the school implement trauma-informed practices to help students who come from backgrounds that may have many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

“We know resilience exists. We know kids have it in them,” Newton said. “But it is a journey and we are on that journey.”

[Interviews of elementary school principals to take place in early December]

GVE, along with Harborview Elementary, and for a time, Riverbend Elementary, have been working with consultants from CLEAR to develop practices to help children who come from adverse backgrounds gain the inter- and intrapersonal skills to help them live fulfilling and balanced lives.

“The point of the third year is to build capacity in the people that are there to continue the work,” Potter said. “I think the hope is that even though CLEAR is leaving, is that we’re building enough capacity in the school district to continue trauma informed teaching practices.”

Potter said the hope is that there’s been enough time for the best-practices arrive at to have taken root, so that with the departure of the consultants from CLEAR at the conclusion of the three-year program, which began in 2017 and will run to the end of this school year, the faculty at GVE and other schools can carry on with their restorative style of teaching.

The program was funded jointly by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alaska Children’s Trust, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Juneau School District.

ACEs are identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as a huge indicator of future health problems, including chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death. Adverse experiences can include abuse and family and household challenges, such as acrimonious divorces, an incarcerated parent and emotional or physical neglect, Newton said.

“It’s uncommon to have more than two to three kids in the classroom whose parents are still married,” Newton said. “No two people who experience trauma ever look the same. It’s a global understanding that these could lead to a student struggling.”

[Southeast teen hospitalized for vaping related injury]

Best practices at GVE include being aware of what kids are going through, giving them time and space to articulate their feelings, and finding ways to help them express what they need to convey, Potter said. With the best practices in place, teachers can help students to overcome false starts in dealing with others and themselves.

“We also try to model healthy relationships with colleagues,” Potter said. “A lot of kids come into our school and they don’t really know what that looks like.”

With the end of the three year-program, it’ll be up to GVE’s faculty to carry on with the best practices they’ve put in place. But signs are already promising, with other teachers saying that students retain some of the methods learned at GVE as they enter middle school, teaching counselors there what they’ve learned.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Dec. 1

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Steve Lewis, foreground, and Stephen Sorensen from the Alaska State Review Board scan ballots from precincts where they were hand counted at the Division of Elections office Nov. 15. Board officials spent the period between the Nov. 8 election and its certification Wednesday performing about 20 different to verify the results. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Election certified, but challenges pending

Outcome of at least two state House races unknown, which may determine chamber’s leadership

Errol Culbreth and Scotlyn Beck (Polichinelles) rehearse ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The immensely popular ballet is coming to the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Friday through Sunday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau Dance Theatre is ready to get cracking

“The Nutcracker” is set to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In this photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB investigator Clint Crookshanks, left, and member Jennifer Homendy stand near the site of some of the wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, that was involved in a midair collision near Ketchikan. The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration should tighten rules about minimum visibility during flights and require more weather training for pilots who fly around Ketchikan.  (Peter Knudson/NTSB via AP)
Safety board recommends new measures for Alaska air tours

The board wants regulations for Ketchikan similar to requirements in Hawaii and the Grand Canyon.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, Nov.30

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Harbor seals have a face full of whiskers, which the seals use to follow hydrodynamic wakes left by prey fish; even a blind seal can track a fish this way, discriminating victims by size and shape and direction of movement.  (Courtesy Photo / Jos Bakker)
On the Trails: The sense of touch

Touch is a mechanical sense, detecting physical stimuli such as pressure, texture,… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 29

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read