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

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 20, 2024

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

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
State judge upholds most fines against group seeking repeal of Alaska ranked choice voting

An Anchorage Superior Court judge has ruled that opponents of Alaska’s ranked… Continue reading

Joshua Midgett and Kelsey Bryce Riker appear on stage as the emcees for MixCast 2023 at the Crystal Saloon. (Photo courtesy Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)
And now for someone completely different: Familiar faces show new personas at annual MixCast cabaret

Fundraiser for Juneau Ghost Light Theatre on Saturday taking place amidst week of local Pride events

Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire
A section of Angoon along the coast is seen on June 14. Angoon was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1882; here is where they first pulled up to shore.
Long-awaited U.S. Navy apology for 1882 bombardment will bring healing to Angoon

“How many times has our government apologized to any American Native group?”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon announced this week she plans to seek a third three-year term. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Mayor Beth Weldon seeking third term amidst personal and political challenges

Low mill rate, more housing cited by lifelong Juneau resident as achievements during past term.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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

A king salmon is laid out for inspection by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor during the Golden North Salmon Derby on Aug. 25, 2019. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Emergency order bans king salmon fishing in many Juneau waters between June 24 and Aug. 31

Alaska Department of Fish and Game says low projected spawning population necessitates restrictions

Three cruise ships are docked along Juneau’s waterfront on the evening on May 10, as a Princess cruise ship on the right is departing the capital city. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Sitka residents join those in Juneau proposing hard caps on cruise ships as tourism grows

Two ballot measures could be presented to local voters in the two Southeast Alaska towns this fall

Most Read