In Hudsonville, it wasn’t difficult to rally MEA members to get out to vote in favor of the 2018 Ottawa regional enhancement millage. Everyone knew the money would be going to help address the biggest issue facing many schools across the state—student behavior and student mental health.
Money from the millage hired counselors to reduce caseloads and behavior specialists to oversee a district-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system. “We’ve seen the results immediately,” said Hudsonville Education Association President Shelly Stokes.
Training on student trauma and classroom de-escalation techniques has given her tools for dealing with challenging student behaviors which have been on the increase, Stokes said, adding: “I feel inspired.”
Having new staff dedicated to designing and implementing a research-based PBIS system means that work doesn’t simply become another task for teachers to tackle alone. Instead, expectations for student behavior, along with rewards and consequences, become a team effort and evolve into a cultural norm.
Newly hired specialists and MEA members Heather Stauffer and Ross Veldheer work with PBIS teams at every building. The two coordinate lessons and modeling of behavior expectations from the busses to hallways, playgrounds, classrooms, and cafeterias.
“There’s research behind it, there’s a lot of thought and time invested in making decisions, and the rollout has been really intentional,” Stauffer said.
“I’m excited because we’re in the buildings every single day, so it’s not this outside person coming in and maybe giving you some good strategies and then they’re gone,” Veldheer said. “We’re going to work with the teachers, build those relationships and be someone they can partner with.”
Every building also has a support plan for high-need students who may require individual help at times. “We’re building capacity by talking about trauma with the staff and by teaching those kids it’s OK to have big feelings and that we will have practices in place in the classroom so that teaching can continue to happen,” Stauffer said.
First-grade teacher Nicole Terpstra said she appreciates knowing someone is there who can help with a child who might need extra attention, and she appreciates having a common language that unites all school employees and students.
“Everyone understands because I’m using the same language as the PE teacher, the bus driver, and the fifth-grade teacher,” Terpstra said.