Friday, December 2, 2016

Terese Jurgensen ~ Director of Student Services ~ December 2, 2016

 ~Each and Every Child~
Jim Flansburg, Communications Bureau
Iowa Department of Education

Jim Flansburg, Communications Bureau and author of the monthly newsletter of "Each and Every Child" from the Iowa Department of Education, visited Howard-Winneshiek Community School District on Wednesday, November 30th, to interview a district level team of Special Education teachers and Success Team members on our implementation of Social Emotional Learning strategies and programs throughout our district. The team members pictured above, listed from left to right are:
  • LeeAnn Drilling - Parent
  • Jessica Cummings - Special Education teacher for 6th grade students at Crestwood & Notre Dame Elementary
  • Terese Jurgensen - Director of Student Services/Special Education
  • Jim Flansburg - Iowa Department of Education
  • Deb Darge - Photographer - Iowa Department of Education
  • Megan Merkel - Special Education Teacher for Preschool
  • Dory Fravel - Special Education Teacher for 3rd & 5th grades
  • Denise Headington - Success Team Member; School Social Worker
  • Alicia Martin - Special Education Teacher for junior high and high school
The article that Mr. Flansburg came to interview us for was on our implementation of Social and Emotional Learning that we have imbedded across our district. As I stated in a previous article our 21st Design Essentials that we implement at Howard-Winneshiek CSD are:

Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools
“Preparing and empowering our students to think creatively, serve, contribute and 
succeed locally and globally”

21st Century Learning: System Design Essentials
  • Meaningful relationships connect learners. Social-Emotional Learning foundational.
  • Processes are in place to provide resources and learning experiences to meet individual student needs.
  • Instruction is differentiated, focused on developing skills and attitudes of creativity, imagination, and curiosity.
  • The structure of the educational system is flexible and empowers students to take ownership in their learning.
  • Curriculum is relevant and demands deep levels of understanding and thinking. Transliteracy coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills are foundational.
  • Systemic use of technology improves accessibility of information and enhances opportunities for learning.
  • Professional Development models the expectations of classroom instruction by being data driven, differentiated, and at higher levels of thinking.
  • Input is collected and analyzed in a timely and efficient manner to improve all levels of the system. Move from “data” to ‘telemetry”
                          “Teaching the skills to learn” 
                                                                          Board of Education reviewed and affirmed Work Session July 2016 

I have highlighted the first design essential which outlines our first design element and speaks of relationships and the fact that Social and Emotional Learning is foundational. When a student comes to school and is hungry or cannot self-regulate or understand how to communicate and understand the perspective of others, it is understandable that they struggle to learn. Huge gaps widen if the student cannot focus, work well in groups or become violent or aggressive and have to be removed from class. On the flip side, if students struggle in this manner, the learning of all of the other students in this same class become significantly affected. 

Here is the beautiful part - At Howard-Winneshiek CSD, we are teaching the skills to learn and overcome these difficulties so that our students can educate themselves throughout their lives. Not only in content learning but in the most important part of their lives - creating and developing positive relationships.  In our district, we are not blaming students for skills that have not been learned or connected in their brains. We are implementing, teaching, and narrowing the gap through a wide range of Social Emotional research-based strategies that have made a tremendous impact on our entire school in the areas of learning, decreased office referrals, decreased student removals from class, increased attendance rates as well as positive school culture and climate.  These issues and strategies were highlighted during our conversation with Jim Flansburg and Deb Darge as he asked engaging questions and Deb took countless pictures during our conversation. 

Quite honestly, this interview may be one of the best days of my professional life. As I listened to the teachers describe how implementing Social and Emotional Learning has changed how they teach, how students learn and even how it has changed their life as an educator, it made me so immensely gratified and inspired by the work that is going on throughout our district and will now reach out into Iowa through the "Each and Every Child Newsletter."  I wish we would have videotaped the conversation because it was so rich and purposeful. Here are some of the comments made by our teachers during the interview. 
  • "In preschool we implement Social Thinking and the Zones of Regulation throughout the school day, not just in special education. All students need Social and Emotional supports including executive functioning strategies." ~ Megan Merkel
  • My Ah-Ha! moment occurred when a student said to me, "You mean other people have thoughts about me?!"  ~ Dory Fravel
  • "Growth Mindset is all about teaching our students to not let circumstances define them, but teaching them to define their circumstances." ~ Alicia Martin
  • "Social Thinking is a key piece of helping students learn how to comprehend what they are reading. It is hard for a student to understand what a character is thinking and feeling, if they don't understand this fact for themselves." ~ Jessie Cummings
  • "I believe it is important that future teachers learn about Social and Emotional Learning to prepare them to be effective teachers." ~ Jim Flansburg
  • "An important piece of Social Emotional Learning is all about partnering with our parents and families to bridge the gap between school and family. Strategies we want our students to learn here, is shared and taught with the family, so that true learning and change can come throughout the child's day." ~ Denise Headington
  • "Social Thinking has changed my son, Corbin's life, in so many ways. We don't have meltdowns at school or home, which used to be a daily struggle. I used to just dread when the school called me...not anymore! Our entire family life is better." ~ LeeAnn Drilling; parent of Corbin Drilling

Corbin Drilling - The Star of our Day!
    Without fail, the "Star of our Day," the very best part of the interview was when Corbin shared his experiences with learning strategies of Social and Emotional Learning. According to Corbin, he had many problems in school learning because of his behaviors all the way from preschool until 2nd grade when he then learned about the Zones of Regulation, Flexible Thinking and Whole Body Listening. In less than one year of learning these strategies, he no longer has office referrals. Conservatively, it is safe to say that Corbin had over 150 office referrals over the years prior to learning Social and Emotional Learning strategies and supports. He stated lots of wonderful things, that brought tears to everyone's eyes:
    • "I like going to school now - it's fun!"
    • "I am really good at math and now other kids let me help them."
    • "All the teachers in this room helped me!"
    • "I know how to keep my body in a group and how to think with my eyes, ears and brain." 
    • "I have friends now."
    On behalf of the Howard-Winneshiek CSD, 
    we would like to offer a huge 
    Jim Flansburg & Deb Darge 
    for the opportunity to share with Iowa through the

    "Each and Every Child" 

    This article will be featured in February 2017

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    My daughter, Emily and I, heading home for Thanksgiving!

    I hope your Thanksgiving was a wonderful day!

    Have a great week!

    If you need to reach me,

    Terese Jurgensen,

    please do not hesitate to do so at 

    (563) 929-6344 

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