Jen Vance


Observer Columnist

Many of you might wonder what goes on in a school building when students are not in session. Well, on a day such as this, you might see the following:

Teachers racing their chairs up and down hallways.

Scooter races in the gym.

Loud music and dance parties in the media center.

A pizza party in the cafeteria.

A mean game of “Knockout” on the playground.

I am just kidding! While teachers love having students in the building, the days without kids are much needed for teachers to grow professionally and keep up on best practices to meet the needs of our students. This learning occurs in a variety of ways, including large group, small group, and sometimes virtually. 

To kick off the 19-20 school year, all staff participated in learning centered around providing Trauma Informed Care to our students. Recent studies have shown that nearly 35 million kids in our country have experienced at least one type of trauma in their lives. Trauma occurring in childhood has a significant impact on development. We feel strongly about being able to respond to students and their needs in the classroom. 

The learning focused on specific strategies to use in the classroom. These strategies included tips for setting expectations at the beginning of the year and, most importantly, forming trusting relationships with students. It can be a delicate balance to offer students a certain amount of choice and control over their own learning, while still holding them to high expectations. Our teachers look for ways to achieve this on a daily basis. As we think about the beginning of the year, this quote was shared with teachers as a parting thought. “Kids will remember very few rules and procedures from their first days of school, but they surely will remember whether or not they feel safe, comfortable, and welcomed by their teacher. Focus on relationships before rules.” 

Walking through our buildings during the first few days of school, it was apparent that teachers are building relationships and working hard to make sure every student feels welcome and safe in their classrooms. Whether it was the red carpet being rolled out at the intermediate school, Ekstrand teachers greeting students at the door, or the excitement filling the halls of the middle school during open house. People throughout the district are working to make sure students are in an environment where their best learning can occur.

With the needs of children ever evolving and increasing, it is also imperative that, as a district, we look out for our teachers as well. Teaching is a demanding job that does not always result in immediate gratification. Over the past couple of years, we have also worked with teachers to help them to find the balance that allows them to be the best version of themselves at home and work. We talk often about the need for teachers to take care of themselves before they can effectively care for others. Specifically, the large number of others they take care of every day at school. 

In conclusion, thank you for sharing your kids with us and trusting us with your most valued possessions. We work hard every day to be our best for them, even on the days they are not in the building!

Jen Vance is the assistant superintendent for the Central DeWitt Community School District.