Petsche Columnist mug

Providing a simple safety concept to Central DeWitt Intermediate Principal Bill Petsche (center) are Jim Clark and Gina Helton of DeWitt. Sections of unserviceable fire hoses can be used on the hinge mechanism of older classroom doors to keep out intruders.

The phrase “No one cares what you know until they know you care” is a cliche quote often used in the world of education, but at Central DeWitt, we strive to live it each day, demonstrating to students how much we care.

Students are coming to us each day in a variety of places.  Some got a good night’s sleep, ate a good breakfast, and had positive interactions at home getting ready for school.  Some students are dealing with some type of abuse, medical issues, went to bed hungry, got up late or experienced turmoil while getting ready for school.  Most students probably fall in the middle of these two scenarios.  

In order to serve all students effectively, no matter how they arrive at school, we must meet them where they are and the most important key to the process is building strong relationships with them.  By building strong relationships, not only do we create a trusting environment, but we get to know students and are able to identify what their needs truly are.  Brain research shows us that if a student comes to us hungry, scared, angry, grieving or suffering from some type of trauma, we must first address those needs if they are going to learn effectively.  In today’s world, the number of students coming to us with these types of needs is increasing.  

We are blessed to have tremendous facilities in our district, but most importantly, we have staff members that prioritize relationships with students and addressing student needs.  Everyone in the district plays a part, the bus driver that picks them up in the morning, the custodian that greets them at the door as they walk into school, the teacher and associates that guide their learning in the classroom, the nutrition staff that serves them lunch with a smile, and the secretary that patiently listens to their story while phones are ringing.  Through the relationships that staff members develop with our students, we are able to identify strategies to meet each student’s need.

If you were to walk into our building this is a sampling of the strategies you would see used to address social, emotional and behavior needs.  Flexible Seating - a majority of classrooms utilize flexible seating including standing desks, swivel chairs, bouncy balls for seats, and collaborative tables.  You would see fidgets, tools such as stress balls that allow students to stay active with their hands in order to keep the brain focused.  In the classroom you would see students taking brain breaks.  These short active breaks help students refocus so they can return to work feeling centered and ready to learn.  In the media center, you would see stationary bikes used as reading stations.  Some students benefit from a short break in the sensory room.  This room has a variety of equipment that allows students to regulate and refocus before heading back to class.  Across the building you would hear the emphasis on positive language.  We strive to use at least 4 positive comments for each bit of negative feedback.  In the Intermediate School building you would also see a variety of mentors that are utilized to complement staff relationships.  High school and middle school students as well as adult community members volunteer as lunch buddies, tutors and mentors in the building.  Our goal is for all students to grow and develop.  Relationships are the foundation for this success and at Central DeWitt you will see these relationships developed at all levels.