Saturday, November 11, 2017

Tennis Pro Turns International Teacher Leader: The Jake Agna Story & Elzy Wick Wins Leadership Award

Tennis Pro Turns International Teacher Leader: The Jake Agna Story
By Dr. Dorinne Dorfman, Principal

For the past two weeks, Mr. Jake Agna has teamed with physical education teacher Ms. Tammy Charbonneau in daily PE classes. Learning about his work throughout the city led me to interview him for Champlain’s Blue Note. For more information, visit: Kidsontheball.com.

DD: When did you start playing tennis? How did you start teaching tennis in Burlington?

JA: When I was four or five years old I started learning tennis. There were no junior rackets, but I was a big kid so could use a wooden racket. Both my parents were doctors. My dad was one of the best players around in the 1960s. We lived in a very small town in Ohio where tennis was huge. My biggest influence was Aunt Rose, though she wasn't my aunt. She would grab my hand and take me and all these kids across this bridge to real nice public courts to play tennis. We got some instruction, but the game is really what got me on the ball. I stayed in Ohio, but one really hot summer in 1983, I was teaching tennis in Cincinnati, and my wife came to Vermont for a visit. She loved it here, so I called the Quarry Hill Club in Burlington and they hired me over the phone. I had a resume by them, I was young, but I had huge jobs. When I was nineteen, I was the head pro at Queen City Racket Club in Ohio.

My own two girls were graduating from high school and I had a midlife crisis. I didn't grow up with tennis clubs; I had public parks. That’s why we started “Kids On The Ball” in 1999. We started working with The Edge to give kids the chance to play tennis who otherwise never could. Our program is based on play. I'm more worried about their citizenship than their actual tennis skills. If a student buys into the rules of a game in a fun way, that’s the best introduction to following rules. The rules are why we’re having fun. This is the nature of life. The game is, ‘You win some and you lose some.’ That’s what the game does for kids, many of whom have a “beat-up” background. They need order, and they want the order. Order calms people down. Anxiety levels can be high; the kids see what others have that they don’t. They need to learn about the building blocks needed to be successful. In tennis, you see the order and steps ahead for success. It’s not a blank slate. You can’t be successful unless you have action, reflection, and have more action. For a lot of kids, it’s only action. The kids who get the most out of the program are those who get to share their skills with others. Some kids can feed a ball to others, and that’s an important skill.

DD: Has this caught on anywhere else?

JA: The United States Tennis Association now has a national public school program. They format it by teaching tennis, but my approach is to just let kids play. I don't care about how they hold a racket, but if they want to get the ball over the net, they will hold it correctly. All you need is portable nets, low-compression balls, and junior rackets. These make the sport much more accessible to younger kids. The game is a vehicle to teach life skills.

DD: Where does Kids On the Ball offer tennis programs?

JA: We do after-school tennis in Burlington, So Burlington, the King Street Center, and the Boys and Girls Club. That hits a lot of kids. We have a lot of volunteers, adults and kids who get volunteer credit in high school. Another big project is in Cuba. We built ten courts at the national tennis center in Havana. That was the first brick and mortar project from America since Eisenhower. We started this project when President Obama was opening up Cuba. The model is like Habitat for Humanity, where volunteers build a project and spend time in the community. The volunteers pay their own way. Next spring, we go to New Orleans. We will take kids from the Lower Ninth Ward to city parks and do Kids on the Ball for a week. We will bring volunteers from Burlington. We hope to go to San Antonio too.

DD: How do you fundraise for such a big program?

JA: The amazing thing about Vermonters are, they’re supportive of things that are in all of our best interest. I don’t think I could have fundraised for this in Ohio. No other community would have raised that amount a money to help Cuban kids. If that embargo ever ends, our kids would learn so much from the Cuban children. They want to meet American children. I have taken teenagers down there. The Cuban youth have so much resiliency and a sense of fairness. They have a social contract for each other. They’ve been in a siege mentality for so long, that they all pull together. They are for the group, not so much the individual. In Cuba they play tennis so much. They were way more accomplished than our kids. They just play without distractions, like they don’t have cell phones.

DD: What else would you like to share?

JA: Tennis is a game for everyone. I want us to be in a position where it’s fair from the start. We want to bring tennis to the street level, like basketball, soccer and baseball are. Right now tennis is only at the club level, and that keeps us from moving forward nationally. We need to bring tennis opportunities to everybody. A little girl in Cuba drew a picture of the U.S. and Cuba with the words: “Building bridges, connecting people, one ball at a time.” That’s our mantra, along with, “Just keep playing the next ball.”

Champlain Parent Elzy Wick Wins Physical Activity Leadership Award
By Tammy Charbonneau, Physical Education Teacher
The Society of Health and Physical Educators of Vermont (SHAPE) “recognizes outstanding individuals who actively promote lifelong health and physical activity.” Ms. Elzy Wick was recognized at the SHAPE State Conference On October 20. As a community leader she has grown our Mini-Milers Program, coaches each practice, and organizes the Champlain Community Fun Run. She has helped Champlain students participate in the Penguin Plunge and is an integral part of the BlackWatch Premier Soccer Club. She is an annual participant and supporter of Zoe’s Race. She is a certified aqua instructor as well as a certified surfset instructor. She serves on the Board of King Street Youth Center and the Vermont Midi Composition Board, and is active on the Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation. Ms. Wick is an exceptional example of leadership in physical fitness, and I am proud to have her as a parent at Champlain Elementary School.

Champlain School Store Grand Opening!

On Monday, November 20, students will be opening their school store. It will be open on conference day from 8am to 6pm in the Champlain School lobby. They will be selling school supplies and all items cost ten cents to one dollar. Parents need to be with their children to buy something. All proceeds from the sales will go towards making improvements on our school playground such as repaving the four-square game, adding hopscotch, and making the zip line smoother. This will help all students at Champlain have fun on our playground. Thank you! - The School Store Management

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Champlain’s Designated Employees and Food Containers and Chemical Exposure

Champlain’s Designated Employees
Every school in Vermont has one or more Designated Employees (DE) who are trained in the required policy, F29 Prevention of Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying of Students. The following employees are Champlain’s DEs:

Kendre Guinane, Student Behavior Coach kguinane@bsdvt.org
Gregory Kriger, School Counselor gkriger@bsdvt.org
Dorinne Dorfman, Principal ddorfman@bsdvt.org
Harassment, hazing, and bullying (HHB) have clear legal definitions that may be different from what parents knew in the past. In the chart below, teasing has been added for clarification. Teasing, while not illegal in the courts, may still be considered behavioral misconduct at school and consequences may be assigned.
Mis-behavior
Teasing
Bullying
Harassment
Hazing
Description

Annoying or jesting comments among friends with no intent of significant harm
Name calling, gossiping, taking things, taunting, unwanted touching, threats of withdrawing friendship, the silent treatment, or exclusion from group with the intent to ridicule, humiliate, or intimidate, and continues over time.
Bullying directed toward an individual which targets race, creed, color, national origin, marital status, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity
Any type of physical brutality that creates or results in an unreasonable risk of harm
Related Laws

Teasing is not illegal.
13 VSA §1026 Disorderly Conduct, §1023 Simple Assault
13 VSA §1455 Discrimination
Unlawful conduct based on age, location, and severity
The intention of HHB policies and laws throughout the country is to inform and prevent the very hurtful consequences of this behavior. Once considered a normal part of growing up, today educators encourage HHB reporting right away to prevent further damage to harmed students and the spread of the misconduct to others. All students and parents are requested and school employees are mandated to report HHB incidents to a Designated Employee. Whenever possible, Champlain relies on restorative practices to address HHB. Ultimately the relationship between the harmers and harmed need healing and growth to resolve their conflicts and reconcile as members of our school community. Traditionally discipline has imposed punitive consequences on perpetrators that should “even the score” for victims. That approach can deepen the divide and breed resentment, especially among highly-impressionable children, for whom these lessons can last a lifetime. Restorative practices, widely practiced at Champlain, gives harmed students voice to share their experience and feelings, and to directly address those who harmed them. The harmers learn empathy and understand the impact of their actions on others, and with the new knowledge, can help others resolve conflict peacefully.
Food Containers and Chemical Exposure
About half of Champlain students bring “home lunch” to school, much of which is stored in a wide variety of containers. Many students also bring water bottles, filling them in the lobby and reducing the use of disposables in our community. The November 2017 edition of Nutrition Action Healthletter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, focuses on common food packaging. With so many Champlain parents committed to Farm-to-School projects and their children’s health, I could not help but share this information in the Blue Note.
  • Plastic containers posing more health risks are No. 3, No. 6, and No. 7.
  • Plastic containers with fewer health risks are No. 1, No. 2, No, 4, and No. 5.
  • Wash plastic containers by hand. Avoid running them in the dishwasher or placing them in the microwave.
  • Avoid placing hot food or liquid into plastic containers.
  • Throw away scratched plastic containers, since this increases the risk of leaching chemicals into food.
Since this article is hot off the presses and inaccessible online, please feel free to stop by the main office to read my copy.

Schardt, David. “Kicking the Can: When Food Containers Become Part of Your Meal.” Nutrition Action Healthletter, November 2017, 8-11.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Peer Mediation 2017-18, Kindergarten Book Parade and Spotlight on Principal and Afterschool Director

Peer Mediation 2017-18
Forty-two Champlain students in grades 2-5 attended training to become peer mediators this month. Collaborating with B’Kids After-school program directors Karlie Gunderson and Bridget O’Leary, we simply could not turn any child away, even those calling their parents fifteen minutes before starting time. We split into two groups to learn new vocabulary, practice active listening, pose clarifying and probing questions, and simulate peer mediation scenarios. They join the twenty-five Champlain peer mediators trained in fall 2016. At this time, a total of 34% of students in grades 2-5 are trained peer mediators. Since the training ended, planning room paraeducator Miss Kendre Guinane has busily taught many children to sew buttons on their newly-earned sashes. Students earn a button for each training and peer mediation they attend. Last year some mediators’ sashes were covered with glittering stars like that of an army general, though instead of armed for battle, they were ready to mediate.

The day after the last training, several kindergarteners squabbled in the lunchroom, vying for friendship and excluding competitors in their own five-year-old way. One student came forward to ask for help and we turned to fourth-grader Cameron Gurry, who leapt at the chance. She brought the younger children to a nearby classroom to hear out their troubles and restore their friendship. Other mediation sessions take place during a weekly schedule in the planning room, where Miss Guinane has arranged a round table and white board for this purpose. Managing time constraints in students’ busy day is an ongoing challenge.

Nearly every week a dispute emerges suitable for peer mediation, though not all conflict or rule breaking should be decided by peers. B’Kids directors and Champlain staff judiciously consider options for intervention, involving teachers, parents, and the students themselves to determine the best ways forward.  However, even in some of the most difficult situations, whenever asked, students in trouble request a good friend for support. This may be one of the most effective strategies for students to overcome feelings of worthlessness and shame when confronted with their wrongdoing. The friend provides moral support and acceptance, urging his/her buddy to do the right thing. The friend’s “relationship power,” a concept examined closely in leadership studies, can exceed that of adults, convincing and coaching the harmer to self-reflect, make amends, apologize, and measurably improve behavior. When I first became a school administrator a decade ago, I hadn’t read about this practice nor imagined its possibility. Years of Responsive Classroom methods have trained Champlain students to serve as kind, forgiving role models for their peers in need. I am humbled and grateful for their gifts.

Equally I appreciate the Burlington School District’s initiative in Restorative Practices (RP) as a holistic, student-centered approach to discipline. BSD teachers participated in RP circles at last week’s inservice, learning the methods for integrating an egalitarian approach to dialogue at all grade levels. Each school has a RP team that leads and monitors implementation of the initiative. Parents/Guardians can learn more about the circle process by attending an upcoming presentation at Champlain with Parents and Youth for Change on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 6pm.

Kindergarten Book Parade
By Ms. Vi Courville, Kindergarten Teacher
On the morning of Friday, October 27, Kindergarteners were excited to parade through the first floor of Champlain sharing their published books! This is a tradition that has taken place at our school for several years, known as the “Kindergarten Publishing Parade.” The process in getting to this point began at the end of September, when students were introduced to our writing mantra: “We think, we draw, we write!”

Students took time to think about things they enjoyed and special moments in their lives to help spark creativity in writing their own true stories. After drawing and coloring those moments, the next step was to label themselves, other people, and/or the objects. Students worked on several stories before conferencing with their Kindergarten teacher to pick a favorite story to publish. Once the story was picked, students worked even harder to make sure all criteria that were discussed during the conference were met before creating a title and completing their book. This writing assignment is Kindergarten’s first official writing piece, and what better way to celebrate than to have a publishing parade!

Spotlight on Champlain Principal and B’Kids Afterschool Program Director
Vermont Afterschool, a statewide organization, has featured an interview with Dr. Dorfman and former after-school program director Ms. Jessica Villani (now a Champlain second-grade teacher) on its website. Together they share their vision and collaboration to create a robust afterschool program. These articles can be found at: http://www.vermontafterschool.org/principalprofiles and
http://www.vermontafterschool.org/dorinne-dorfman-interivew

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fourth Grade Science Assessment Results, Talking with Children about Hardship, and Celebrating Halloween

Fourth Grade Science Assessment Results

For the past nine years, the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) has tested student performance in science. The exam includes life science, earth space science, physical science, and inquiry. Parents/guardians may remember a few short years ago when NECAP also tested students in mathematics, reading, and writing using a paper-based exam format. These were replaced by the online Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) that provides mid-year and summative (May) testing sessions.


The Science NECAP measures students’ knowledge and skills based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS differ from Vermont’s Framework of Standards by taking a three-pronged approach to multidisciplinary science education. First, NGSS “Crosscutting Concepts” begins the scientific method in elementary school, and builds a foundation of all sciences, rather than separating areas into disconnected disciplines. Second, “Engineering Practices,” expands inquiry into the “range of cognitive, social, and physical practices.” Third, “Disciplinary Core Ideas” focus on “key ideas… that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines” (Next Generation State Standards).


As Vermont transitions from its previous state-based standards to the national Next Generation Science Standards, the NECAP science exams continues to test Vermont students in grades 4, 8, and 11. Unlike the quick turnaround the online SBAC allows, last May’s fourth-grade science results are only available now. Nevertheless the results, especially when viewed over multiple years, reveal trends in science education in our school. Champlain Elementary School students have consistently performed significantly above the Vermont average, with an average difference of 12 percentage points higher over the five-year period of 2012-2016. A closer analysis of the data shows that, despite Champlain’s commitment to equity, students who face academic disadvantages, such as learning English as a second language, come from a low-income background, and/or have a learning disability, perform lower than more advantaged students. This is true throughout Vermont and the country. Champlain’s decline in 2017 NECAP scores mirrors this disparity.


Analyzing student achievement over time can often feel like a “numbers game,” with a relatively small population (32 CES fourth graders tested in 2017) easily affected by fluctuating factors. Although our students’ performance dipped in 2017, with 47% demonstrating proficiency, these results remain slightly above the state average of 46%.


This year Champlain’s Leadership Team made the decision to devote all Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings to address the achievement gap. Every Wednesday at early dismissal, grade-level teams of teachers, special educators, and math and literacy interventionists meet for ninety minutes to review their students’ assessment results. Together they design instruction based on students’ strengths and weaknesses, and rearrange student groups to target specific concepts and skills. Science is a multidisciplinary application of learning. Directly teaching and supporting reading comprehension of directions and nonfiction, writing organization, and logical problem solving will improve science education.


One of the most notable examples of Burlington’s efforts to narrow the achievement gap is the commitment to PLCs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. This year at Champlain, all other topics and professional development have been scheduled to take place during faculty meetings and inservice days.


While it may take several years to see positive growth on state exams, especially for disadvantaged youth, our teachers’ efforts will have an immediate impact on student performance on local assessments, such as Fountas and Pinnell in literacy and Eureka Math. National education leader and author Mike Schmoker espouses a laser-like focus on three essentials: “a common curriculum, sound lessons, and purposeful reading and writing” (9).

Works Cited
Next Generation Science Standards. Read the Standards. www.nextgenscience.org. Accessed 9 Oct 2017.


Schmoker, Mike. Focus. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2011.


Talking with Children about Hardship in the Community
Disruptive, disturbing events have occurred in our community and country over the past two weeks. When students ask questions, they need a caring response that reassures their safety, and gives the opportunity to express their feelings. Champlain’s school counselor Mr. Greg Kriger is available to support individual students and provide resources to parents. These two websites provide guidance to educators and parents on how to speak with children when tragedies arise. http://neatoday.org/2017/10/02/mass-shooting-las-vegas-talk-students/


In addition, parents may have heard their children talk about two students, who overreacted aggressively to differences in opinion, within view of many other children and adults. Immediately all adults involved addressed the conflict with those affected. Both students realized the impact of their actions, and they took important steps to resolve the conflict. Normally behavior incidents are not school news, but given the large number of other students present, I want to reassure our school community that all appropriate steps have been taken to address the causes and consequences of the conflict, and to reestablish safety in our school.


Enjoying Halloween at Champlain

The Burlington School District has established clear guidelines for recognizing Halloween in keeping with  our mission of diversity and equity. Each Champlain teacher will seek an inclusive experience for her/his own classroom for students to enjoy Halloween at school. We will not have a school-wide event. Students may not wear costumes to school. In the days ahead, teachers may contact parents and inform students about special activities on October 31st.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fall is Here! Outdoor Education at Champlain

Fourth/fifth-grade teacher Ms. Aziza Malik has long devoted her professional career to outdoor education. Recently she has shared many learning opportunities with her colleagues to increase the use of Champlain’s campus for environmental education and other uses of the great outdoors. Here Ms. Malik described our school facilities that engage students and adults alike in the natural world.  

DD: What are the outdoor education activities planned for Champlain students this fall? What are the outdoor spaces that we have on our campus?

AZ: We have several places where students learn outdoors at Champlain. We have the fresh garden, the pumpkin patch, blueberry terrace, the apple orchard, the sensory garden, our forest trail, and the Pat Fitzgerald Memorial Book Garden.

Located on the southeast corner of Champlain’s playground is the Fresh Garden, where the bulk of our produce is grown. The Fresh Garden started as a parent initiative to encourage students to eat local produce and experience growing food. After those parents moved onto middle school, the garden became underutilized and overgrown. In 2015 a group of teachers and parents attended the Farm-to-School Institute at Shelburne Farms. At this institute, we developed an action plan with a mission of: “Fostering an inclusive community through place based learning where students utilize the schoolyard for hands-on food production and natural discovery.” In this plan we identified barriers preventing teachers from using the garden and worked to eliminate those. Since the creation of the outdoor committee, the Fresh Garden has bounced back and is one of our most used outdoor spaces.

One key to the success of the Fresh Garden is that we involve what we call the 3 C’s: Classroom, Cafeteria, and Community. Classrooms go outside and connect the curriculum to the garden; our cafeteria uses all the produce we grow; and our community volunteers ensure we have the power to pull it all off. We are so fortunate at Champlain to have Chef Kaye Douglas who will cook anything we harvest. One recent morning Chef Kaye showed up in my classroom to recruit a group to pick swiss chard from the garden that she then served that afternoon at lunch! In addition, she also participates in the Vermont Harvest of the Month program, where twice a month she cooks a featured local crop with a class. Their creation is served to the whole school in a taste test during lunch time and often is incorporated into future lunch menus.

An exciting new development this year is that a representative from the Burlington School Food Project and National Gardening Association, Christine Gall, comes to Champlain every Friday to work in the garden or cook with teachers. We use our mobile cooking Charlie Cart to create recipes using produce straight from our garden. So far, every slot of her time has been filled, which means almost every classroom is getting out to the garden!

In addition to the Fresh Garden, we have the Pumpkin Patch and the Apple Orchard, which were both created in 2016 by a group of UVM Design Build students supervised by outdoor committee member and parent volunteer Sara Brown. Both of these areas were specifically developed based on a survey of teachers to determine crops they most wanted to add to our campus. The Blueberry Terrace was newly donated by Adam's Berry Farm, and installed by parent volunteers.

Located right next to the back doors is the Sensory Garden. This garden was inspired by outdoor committee member Kerrie Mathes’ visit to the Sustainability Academy gardens. This area teaches students to use their senses and learn to recognize herbs. Favorites include Stevia (sweet!) and Lamb’s Ears (soft!).

The Pat Fitzgerald Memorial Book Garden was devoted to a retired teacher who recently passed away. The donation allowed us to hire a landscape architect and shape it into a really nice outdoor space for kids to read. We bought the text series, Books in Bloom, by St. Michael’s College professor Valerie Bang-Jensen, which can borrowed from our school library.

Our Forest Trail runs from Charbonneau Field and exits near the swings at the top of the hill. A parent group led the charge in the initial development of the trail many years ago. For a time the forest trail was no longer used, but Champlain’s outdoor committee decided to work on it. An anonymous donor gave $5,000 for the upgrade that allowed us to have the trail leveled and redeveloped to be wheelchair-accessible. In addition, a space within the forest was cleared for an outdoor classroom and a second bridge connecting back down to the field was added. The forest is currently used by many classes for different purposes, such as, teaching science curriculum, building forts, practicing mindfulness, and appreciating nature.

DD: Since the 2001 educational law, No Child Left Behind, and later Obama’s Race to the Top, public schools have focused on literacy and mathematics. The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act also prioritizes this over other subjects. Why is outdoor education such an important focus at Champlain Elementary School?

AZ:  The Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards both have a large emphasis on the application of learning. Students should be able to take the content they have learned and use it in a real-life scenario. What better place than our own campus to be able to do this? Right in our own schoolyard, we can see concepts and content come to life in a way hard to imitate in the classroom. For example, students might be learning about the difference between estimation and calculation. They could go to the garden, harvest a pumpkin, estimate and then count pumpkin seeds using the skills that they have learned about in math class. In science, we might be studying about the role of decomposers in the ecosystem, and we can investigate the compost pile or observe pillbugs in the forest. Besides the fact that there are direct ties to the standards, it is also just feels good for kids to get outside and connect with nature. We do it as often as we can!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

An Interview with Christina Pasnick, Champlain’s New School Social Worker

The 2017-18 Burlington School budget included a half-time School Social Worker (SSW) in every elementary school. Here Ms. Pasnick explains her background and the opportunities she offers.

DD: How did you decide to become a school social worker, and what led you to Champlain?

CP: I enjoyed working with adolescents in both residential and group therapy settings for years when I lived in New Jersey before moving to Vermont three years ago and coming to work in schools. I got my Masters in Social Work at New York University in 2013 and, earlier this year, earned my Clinical License in Social Work (LICSW). I've always had fun working with kids and I enjoyed the structure of doing group work, so I thought schools might be a good fit for me. Turns out- it's a great fit! This is now my third year working with elementary students in the Burlington School District and I love it!
I am employed by the Howard Center and contracted to work by the school district. There has not been a clinician at Champlain for the past few years, and, starting this year, the district decided to place a clinician here on a part-time basis for 20 hours per week. I'm here at Champlain on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Friday afternoons.

DD: What does a social worker do when working at a public elementary school?

CP: I will carry a caseload of about 7 or 8 students with whom I will meet individually once per week. Kids get referred to me for a variety of reasons. Most often, I see kids that need some support around regulating their emotions, practicing appropriate self-expression, building confidence and self-esteem, coping with anxiety, improving social skills, and building positive peer relationships. I offer individual counseling and skill building support to students here, but I also can help parents with things like transportation, filling out paperwork, or getting referrals to other services. I help families get connected with resources in the community related to mental health, parenting training, housing needs, financial support, or recreational activities for kids. I'm hoping to do some group skill-building work with kids this year too. Skills such as building self-esteem, tolerating frustration, positive peer interaction and how to make friends, things all kids need.

DD: How does having a school social worker enhance school climate?

CP: Questions often pop up related to topics of mental health or various community resources that are available for families, and a social worker can provide some insight in these areas. Social workers, like other support staff in schools, are able to jump in and assist in times of crisis and help problem-solve when there are behavioral or social and emotional concerns about students. One big part of my role is to help keep parents and school connected and communicating effectively. There are times that parents might need help communicating their child's needs to the school or times that parents and school staff don't see eye to eye. I can help with navigating any conflicts or differences of opinion that arise. I help to maintain positive relationships whenever there’s a disagreement.

DD: How do you work with teachers or other school staff members?

CP: In this respect, a school social worker role will vary from school to school. I am available to teachers and staff for consultation regarding behavioral or social/emotional questions. I can participate in team meetings for my clients, and offer suggestions about relationship building and addressing behavior in the classroom. My office (112E) is between the Kindergarten and first grade, so people can see me on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Friday afternoons.

DD: What are the range of services provided by The Howard Center? Who can access these services?

CP: Howard Center offers all kind of services ranging from the most basic interventions to more intensive services or crisis intervention, like First Call. I have packets that list all of our services and can provide these for anyone that wants a copy. Our website also lists our range of services. We do individual, family, and group counseling for kids and adults. There are a range of services for kids and adults with developmental delays, substance abuse, or mental health needs. We have a few different programs that help build family relationships including things like Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Intensive Family Based Services, and Family and Community Based Services. I'm happy to discuss any programs with individuals that have questions. I can also make referrals to private therapists outside of Howard and for mentor programs in the community. Staff and parents can reach me at 864-8477 or cpasnick@bsdvt.org.

DD: In your opinion as a social worker, what are some of the most important things in a child's life?

CP: Most important in a child's life, in my opinion, is, in technical terms, having a secure attachment with a caregiver. This means having a safe, responsible adult that can meet a child's basic needs consistently and also provide them with unconditional love. Kids need to know that they are always loved, even when they've made some poor choices and get "in trouble."

DD: How can family members improve their children's wellbeing?

CP: Responding versus reacting to a child’s behavior is very important and goes a long way in building that secure attachment. The parent may not like what a child has done, but it’s important for the parent to separate the behavior from the child. Responding looks like the parent keeping their own emotions regulated, addressing their children with a calm body and voice, validating the child’s feelings, and teaching them in the moment. Reacting is giving consequences without a connection to the misbehavior, without supporting the child, and without teaching the child the behavior that you expect them to show. Children will only learn, “I’m bad” or “I’m good,” instead of learning why they feel or act the way they do, and what they can do instead.