Kindergarten teachers seek to soothe after Hurricane Michael


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Many of the physical scars from Hurricane Michael have disappeared but the emotional ones remain.

Local educators say the storm is still doing damage to the most vulnerable among us, our children. Bay District School officials said they are seeing an uptick in issues among kindergarten students. On Tuesday, teachers were in the classroom learning strategies to help these little ones cope with the trauma.

“We have seen a lot of students who are coming to us not ready to learn,” said Lisa Churchwell, a staff development coordinator for Bay District. “They are not socialized where they can get the most out of classroom experience. So teachers are having to spend more time in behavior training and strategies to get their socialization down so that they can actually learn the content.”

Teachers are seeing all kinds of behavior.

“That can erupt in various ways,” Churchwell said. “Yelling, withdrawing, not participating even so far as taking objects, flipping a chair over, flipping a table over, and they are expressing themselves these ways because they don’t have any other strategies for themselves.”

These issues continue outside of the classroom. District officials said parents can help.

“Parents can communicate regularly with the teachers and reach out to see if there is anything they can practice at home when the students exhibit these same behaviors in the home,” Churchwell said. “The teachers and the parents must partner in order for these students to get these ingrained in their behavior so that it becomes natural.”

Ultimately, students can overcome trauma and learn.

The goal is for our students to feel safe,” Churchwell said. “To feel like they can go to their teachers who will help them to understand their behaviors so that they don’t repeat those behaviors over so that they can be successful in the classroom.”

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