Trauma-informed Discussion with special guests May 6, 7, and 8th, 2019.

Join the Evidence Based Professional Development Group, Corrections and Re Entry Group, Program Management, Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes, Career Pathways, and Teaching and Learning as we explore the connections between trauma-exposure and trauma-informed practices in adult education.

Through our discussion, we will discover how to implement research-based trauma-informed practices in your program and classroom. Implementing trauma-informed practices can lead to higher student retention rates and students can take advantage of these opportunities and achieve outcomes that will help them transition to the next stage of their lives. The discussion will focus on

  • providing an overall awareness of trauma and trauma-informed practices,

  • explore the needs of individuals involved in the criminal justices system (either in corrections or in returning citizens),

  • career pathway instruction,

  • and trauma-informed teaching.

Furthermore, connections to trauma-informed practices and the impact on learning gains and student retention will be discussed. Finally, effective models of working with both adult learners in the classroom and employers will presented and explored. Our guest leaders in this discussion include:

  • Jeri Gue has been an educator for almost 30 years, teaching special education and reading in public schools, ABE and GED in corrections, and graduate teacher preparation courses at Delaware State University. She is currently Curriculum Coordinator for Delaware Adult and Prison Education and has been a LINCS Learning to Achieve trainer and a STAR trainer for more than 5 years. As an expert in trauma-informed practices, she has attended training from experts and presented on this topic for over three years at a state and national level.
  • Stephenie Rittberger is the Adult Education Director for the Career Learning Center of the Black Hills and has been with Adult Education as a division of Black Hills Special Services Cooperative for seventeen years. Prior to this, she taught in the Minimum Security Unit in Rapid City. In 2008, she was the Adult Educator of the Year for the South Dakota Association of Adult and Life-long Learning. She is working on Woksape which centers on career pathways for students focusing on transition to post-secondary institutions or ensuring stackable credentials for students exiting Career Learning Center programs while focusing on trauma-informed practice with a cultural component. The team she works with is developing training components specific to employers.
  • Dr. Karen Oliver-Rider is currently the principal for the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Muncy, Muncy, Pennsylvania, one of two state female correctional facilities in Pennsylvania. Prior Dr. Rider was the principal at SCI Dallas, Dallas, PA. Before working in the correctional education setting Dr. Rider was an elementary art teacher for thirteen years. Dr. Rider utilized Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) to allow for choice making to promote individualization of the learning process. Dr. Rider grew up in the hospitality industry noting that those formative years assisted in setting the stage of the necessity of treating all individuals with care and compassion. Dr. Rider incorporated the importance of individualized learning and compassion with the completion of her dissertation, “Teacher Perceptions of Trauma Informed Practices at the Female Correctional Education Setting” during her final year of her doctoral studies with Immaculata University, Immaculata, Pa.
Post your questions or comments to this discussion thread and we all look forward to our conversation next week. 
Kathy Tracey


As we explore Trauma-informed Practices, we will begin our conversation with Karen Oliver-Rider, Ed.D. While today’s focus is about corrections education, all of our programs providing services to returning citizens also addresses trauma and trauma-informed instruction. In fact, our current awareness and understanding of the impact of trauma is leading to discussions about defining trauma as a disability. See Peter P., et al. v. Compton Unified School District, aimed to identify trauma as a disability under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As we hear more about trauma, I wonder if this term is overused and losing its true meaning? It seems as though we are hearing a great deal about trauma and trauma-informed practices. Do we overuse the concept of trauma? It is essential to understand the role of trauma, its effect on learning, and how educators can change methods of interacting and responding to the adult learners impacted by trauma.



According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the concept of trauma is that individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.  SAMHSA breaks down this concept into three broad categories, the traumatic event, the individual’s experience of the trauma, and the lasting adverse effects of trauma.

SAMHSA notes for an organization to be trauma informed it is not enough for the organization to have an understanding of trauma, the framework of the organization is built on the realization the widespread impact of trauma and path to recovery, recognizes the signs of trauma with all individuals, responds by integrating policies, procedures, and practices in the daily interactions with all stake-holders, and at bare minimum resist re-traumatization.


In the correctional education environment I believe it is essential to teach ourselves and that of our learners that the correctional setting is a place in which triggers of past trauma can occur causing re-traumatization. Referring to SAMHSA perspective again, SAMHSA reference six guiding principles for an organization to be considered trauma-informed, 1.) Safety, 2.) Trustworthiness/Transparency, 3.) Peer Support, 4.) Collaboration, 5.) Empowerment, and 6.) Culture, History, and Gender Issues.

To ensure trauma informed practices are in place Harris and Fallot (2001) identified five prerequisites for achieving this goal: (a) administrative commitment to change, (b) universal screening, (c) staff training and education, (d) hiring practices, and (e) review of policies and procedures.

A trauma informed environment requires the commitment to both an understanding of past and present trauma's impact on staff and learners.  This dedication to increasing knowledge, understanding, and gaining awareness of trauma is at the core of a trauma-sensitive mindset.


Citation: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept  of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach.  HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.


Thank you for the definition of trauma as it relates to our conversation. As trauma has no demographic boundaries, what does that mean for how we provide both academic and support services for our students, especially those either in a correctional institution or a returning citizen?

I believe that correctional education should provide psychoeducation for students on the effects of trauma on the body and the brain; how to develop healthy coping skills for managing stress, promote associations that nurture healthy relationships, and connections to community organizations.  This will allow the learner in the correctional setting to seek services when necessary. Trauma informed basic belief is that individuals’ actions are a direct result of their experiences, and when a learner acts out is disengaged, the question we should be asking is not “what is wrong with you”, but rather “what happened to you?”  This lens allows correctional education staff to respond with sensitivity to current situations and past traumatic experiences, allowing for the prevention of re-traumatization. By incorporating educational methodologies which teach the learner what happens to the emotional brain when trauma occurs takes blame out of the conversation, taking blame away increases emotional safety and opens the mind to new possibilities.  


By adopting a trauma informed approach, correctional educators undertake a paradigm shift, the organization recognizes, understands, and addresses the needs of the female learner impacted by trauma. By understanding and responding to trauma, correctional educators can help reduce trauma’s negative impact, support critical learning, and create a more positive learning environment.  Teacher participants in my research study indicated that female learners have a different viewpoint than male learners, suffer from low self-esteem, anger, and low motivational initiative more often than male inmates.  Conversely many of the teachers noted that when a female learner is comfortable sharing past trauma it can be beneficial to the learner and possible fellow learners as well.  In addition, outside family plays a positive role by motivating female learners and by encouraging them to bond with and assist one another in the classroom.


The challenge for teachers in the female correctional education setting is to be able to give emotional support and encouragement to the female learner by concentrating on improving

confidence and self-esteem and by leading them to an understanding of their own learning strengths which in turn can possibly assist in overcoming their learning deficits.


Do you find that learners really see their own trauma as situational? So, assisting them to recognize the issues stemming from their experience can be the challenge. Then the conversation is about healing through their responses to current situations. I would think the challenge can be making the individuals feel supported in meaningful ways and connecting them to a support system that is healthy.  We find, often times, the students' support system can be the people they count amongst family and friends. Their families and friends are not able to be the support they need because they are also struggling. The individual needs someone to mentor them or assist them in navigating appropriate responses while they internalize and recognize the better way to handle current events. 

I'm glad that you posted this article, Kathy.  It raises what I think is an important question for teachers working with learners who've experienced some form of trauma.  The reporter cites the judge in the case, stating, "He's not questioning whether exposure to traumatic events can disable a student. He's saying that exposure to traumatic events does not guarantee disability".

I take this to mean that two hypothetical individuals might both experience the same traumatic event, but  have different outcomes in terms of a disability diagnosis.  I wonder if there are any research-based studies looking at comorbidity - the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic diseases - in trauma-related disability?  Are persons with pre-existing physical and cognitive disabilities, not related to trauma, more of less susceptible to trauma-induced disabilities?  I'm curious because I wonder if there are lessons we might learn about resiliency factors, and how we can support a resiliency-based curriculum.     

Mike Cruse

Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator

Mike and All, The original Adverse Childhood Experience study will help draw these connections. We will explore this more in depth later in the week, but you can read about it here: we will also soon discuss resiliency. There are certainly mediating factors for exposure to trauma and different outcomes. As Karen indicates above, trauma-informed practices are about aiding in personal development and includes instruction in the development of coping skills.

Good Morning All,

I am so glad this discussion is taking place.  This is an important topic for all areas of adult education, including corrections, those with disabilities, and our English Language Learners.  We need to be aware that, statistically, 2/3's of our students have experienced one traumatic event in their life, and may be experiencing current trauma as they continue their education with us.  Unless they self-discloses, like other barriers they may have, we aren't aware of the traumas our students may have encountered.  Perhaps our students aren't even aware, because whatever is happening in their lives may be their "normal."  So, we need to treat all students as if they have experienced trauma.  The trauma-informed practices we are discussing are like Universal Design, in that they are effective strategies for all students.

It will be important for us to continue this conversation and practices beyond this three-day discussion.  We do not want this to become a one-and-done event, nor for trauma-informed to become a "buzz word"  that fades away.  

I look forward to this continued discussion,




Karen Oliver-Rider held frame the understanding of trauma and trauma-informed practices and gender responsive services. If you've missed her excellent guidance on this topic, especially as it relates to corrections education and returning citizens, take some time to review the discussion thus far. While most of our programs work with individuals involved in the criminal justice system, trauma is a global issue impacting a large percentage of our students.

Today, Stephenie Rittberger will share how her program is approaching both preparing students for career pathways and sustainable employment while working directly with employers.

Stephenie, can you provide an overview of your approach?



Our approach is simple and straight forward. As an instructional team and an educational provider working in a high poverty area, we committed to becoming both trauma informed and poverty informed, as the two go hand in hand.  Approximately five years ago, Dr. Donna Beegle came to Rapid City at the invitation of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and began the process breaking poverty barriers by educating a group of individuals tasked with helping the public understand and work together to serve the most vulnerable populations in our community. This led to a coaches group where approximately 88 community service organizations meet to assist individuals in the crisis of poverty. Realizing students who are struggling financially tend to be students with multiple barriers, we quickly realized that many had been in very traumatic situations and were dealing with significantly challenging issues.


Our staff, from the front desk receptionist, to employment specialists, to instructors, to examiners to prevention specialists all committed to being part of a learning circle to learn about poverty in the Black Hills area of South Dakota and trauma informed practices. The entire staff have received information on the service providers in the area and have a master list of community –based organizations providing wrap-around services.  An understanding of “active” listening has been incorporated by staff resulting in support to struggling learners when issues arise.  This has created a “non-judgmental” environment within the organization.  Additionally, safety is a primary consideration.  The parking lot is well lit and classrooms, bathrooms and exits are clearly marked. Tracy Palecek, Director of the Prosperity Initiative (and Coaches group) assist in ensuring we have quarterly training in trauma informed practices and continue to provide information from the poverty informed front.


We believe, and implement, mentorship and soft-hand-offs. This means we try to ensure students are considering all options in housing, childcare, transportation and if they need a connection or do not know how a system works, we will physically take them to meet with someone who will personally assist them. This often means talking to the students about expectations and what they need to know moving forward. It also means individuals must be provided with a way to communicate outside of class time so they can ask questions as the need arises creating less frustration and begin to learn how to advocate for themselves.


Classroom management is based on respect. We have access to consultation from an expert in classroom management, Tamera Miyasato. Tamera has developed a classroom management system based on the seven moral values of the Lakota people called the Woope Sakowin   Based on Tamera’s professional recommendations, we have built in flexibility in classrooms schedules allowing students to work around work, childcare, housing and/or transportation. In return, we ask for committed learning and engagement during classroom time. 


We have developed science lessons with illustrations of brain scans of people who have experienced trauma (provided by the ACES study). Students look at normal brain scans, traumatized brain scans and comparative scans when healing occurs.  This lesson is extremely impactful.  Many students have had conversations with us about events we know are traumatic which they see as part of their daily situation.  This lesson tends to lead to students asking to visit with me outside of class and I set aside time to see them.  This tends to be a three day set of lesson plans leading to multiple referrals. We let all of the staff know we are doing the brain scan lessons so they are prepared for students who may need extra attention, care and consideration.


We have developed reading lessons with information and journal articles specific to trauma and the power of connecting to a positive “support system” of individuals who are valued and trusted.  Because so many of our students are Lakota, Nakota and Dakota learners, the idea of family is a very broad. This lesson leads us to a writing assignment that allows students to evaluate their support systems.  Many of our students write about their idea of family and their approach to sharing all they possess to help each other.  We then have two reading lessons that compare some historical accounts/stories written from Lakota perspective and then there is a piece written from the settler or governmental workers perspective. This is a powerful lesson with analysis, synthesis and collaboration built in.  Most students are intrigued so we have extended lessons students can obtain.  These lessons have links to Wolakota interviews or video talking about historical trauma (boarding school issues and loss of language for example). Students can simply scan the code and play the link on their phone and share it with friends and family.  They can answer some comprehension questions and/or write a short summary and send it to me via e-mail. We are working on an extension of the lessons via QR code because the students love sharing the components with people they believe will appreciate the content. Many do not have internet accessibility at home, but have smart phones, so they will visit places with accessible Wi-Fi to share the content. I cannot say enough good things about not having to reinvent the wheel.  Free lesson plans and curriculum content materials are out there.  I knew that the Wolakota project existed and that work had been done for the K12 system so it is simply a matter of adapting the lessons to fit an adult learner audience.


We invested training teacher in a soft skills curriculum, “Bring Your “A” Game to Work”, and make this workshop available to students.  The staff explains workplace expectations to all students. We focus on high wage/high demand jobs based on labor market analysis.  Two individuals from South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation have regular office hours on-site and work to provide all of the possible services to students.  Staff provide support to the students to gain at least one industry recognized stackable credential prior to transitioning from our classrooms to the workforce or post-secondary education and training. We also have a career counselor on-site to assist students consider multiple opportunities and narrow the focus to match their career interest and aptitude.


We have a philosophy that we implement which is to provide students with an individualized and mindful education leading to employment outcomes that provide economic opportunity and upward mobility.  Students meet and exceed our expectations every day.  

I believe your approach to working directly with employers and providing the with trauma-informed practices and the needs of their employees is unique. Can you tell us what that training entails and how it has been received? What are the outcomes fr both the student and employer perspective? For our community members, what questions do you have as it relates to employer training?

Training for employers is something we have piloted on a small scale. We truly learned from our first attempt.  The training has really three components and can be customized to fit specific businesses hiring students at the entry level.  The idea is to give the employers/ human resource managers/ supervisors an overview of barriers to employment in a meaningful and rich way so they feel their time is valued. The training we field tested lasted two hours.


The first component focused on specific poverty statistics in our area and gave some real examples of businesses hiring individuals struggling in the crisis of poverty.This transitioned into a very brief synopsis of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and focused on how trauma impacts business bottom line because turn over, absenteeism and company loyalty/culture are impacted by the effects of trauma on the employee.  Then we transitioned into a storytelling component touching on Lakota-Dakota-Nakota culture and the resiliency and beauty that can be cultivated by knowledge and understanding of philosophies and moral values of the Native employee.  We handed out a small bit or research on the healing power of storytelling to preface the layout.

There was a brief discussion period with focused questions about how policy and procedures can be can support employees who have handled trauma and historical/cultural trauma by allowing for some flexibility to handle specific situations.  We also offered to have ongoing conversation and training with the employers to promote changes that would be a win for the employee and be positive for the employers.  The evidence shows employees are happy and productive when they are valued and see purpose in their work, so by considering the details retention of workers should go up, training costs should diminish and employees, especially at the entry level, should show an increase in productivity with less absenteeism.

We got some excellent feedback and have given careful consideration on how we might create an even more dynamic and impactful training into the future.  We are working on some language changes are committed to keeping a storytelling approach across all components while still giving the statistical information and evidence to back the claims.

Student/employees have asked for assistance in advocating for simple changes that are relatively minor, require small and rational accommodations to work days and are highly effective in helping the employee to feel valued and assisted by the employer.  In return, the employer is getting an employee willing to work hard and do the job well.  Some tangible examples of these policy/procedure changes include:  An employee lived in an area of town without bussing for children after school, she worked for the local hospital as a HUCK (getting patients to and from necessary procedures) and was well liked and appreciated until her mother needed a hip replacement.  Grandma could not pick up children after school, so the employee would leave on her afternoon break and be late in returning to the ward floor.  The simple fix was to advocate for her ability to eat lunch on at the nurses’ station while covering the patient transportation needs between departments then allowing her to take the additional time on her afternoon break to get kids to proper childcare.  The small change meant retaining her job and we hear she does a tremendous and very responsible job.  Another example with positive results: A student who was hired on a Wildland Fire Crew needed steel toed, 24” lace up boots to work, he also needed to take a field training day in order to be able to work.  A field training day was being offered over a long weekend by a volunteer fire department who helped him finish the activities and get signed off.  United Way of the Black Hills had three pairs of steel toed boots but only one pair of lace ups and we could not find any that fit.  The crew stepped up and helped him order his boots, he then paid the crew back, but not with his first check.  They felt he should get on his feet and repay his “brothers and sisters” the kindness after his third paycheck. Having tough conversations with new colleagues is very difficult and so having a mentor to talk through these minor issues helped him get hired and find a group of co-workers he appreciates deeply.  He is entering his second season of fire service and feels loyalty to the people he works with.  He proudly displays his fire shirts and tells everyone about how he was hired and retained.  Transportation is a real issue in our area, so several car pool situations have been discussed and come to fruition by helping people talk about how it can work. We have had an employer who transported his concrete crew to the job site every day in order to be certain he had workers and the employees would not be late or miss work due to transportation issues.  He has mentioned that absenteeism in his four man crew is non-existent. If anyone will not be on the job, it is clearly communicated during the ride back to town each day.   


We have had so many other examples, but I think you can see the intervention is generally very minor, but the impact is huge because the student/employee can work successfully and is not thinking about how to survive the workplace.  They feel invested in their jobs and are productive. I have seen some business models where the employees are given pay at the end of their first day or each day of their first week in order to ensure they have gas etc. and will be able to get to work.  We have not had to negotiate or mentor this idea, yet. We can see this intervention would be tremendous for students struggling in the crisis of poverty or students in survival mode as an effect of trauma.

What your doing sounds amazing and your initial data shows very promising results. We know that trauma impacts every part of an individual's approach to their decision making. By bringing employers into the conversation, we are providing that full circle of service. What do you see as your next steps and how would a program administrator re-create this project in their community? Kathy

We believe, and research is telling us, there is a happy compromise for both employers and employees in the workplace.  With a healthy economy and shortage of employees in industries in Western South Dakota, a little change in policy can make a huge dent in bottom line for everyone involved.  I think this approach is intensive in the beginning because things have been done a particular way for a long time. Change is difficult for all of us, but if business and industry partner with educators and community service providers to support their workforce the potential for good outcomes are there.

•      Initial data from a group of 66 learners is very positive/ we have realized a 14% higher post-test rate with the students participating in our pilot group and I looked at data from the five previous    years to determine this number because I wanted to ensure relevance. 

•      Students from the pilot group who take the post-test are evidencing educational functioning level gains at over ninety percent. (91%)

•      A student steering committee has formed that is very involved and excited about the project.  They are freely sharing their stories and talking to peers about what they have found helpful and      what can be done in a more efficient manner or be more helpful.

There is a real desire for business and industry to grow and flourish, so retention of employees who have updated academic and workplace skills is imperative.  If we can partner to grow and assist people into available positions everyone will come out winners. I think the beauty in this entire project is that every portion of the concept is replicable. We can see people working with populations from other areas of the world could be culturally responsive and/or look at historical trauma and implement similar changes that would work for their individuals. Employers faced with labor shortages would find value in making minor changes impacting their potential for success. There is a benefit in having employers at the table and assisting in the development of the training because we can address what is relevant and necessary to industry.  As a team, our next steps are documenting our processes; archiving all of the documents and research we have used to develop our idea and expanding the employer trainings. We are committed to working on the concept and sharing our findings so other adult education settings can benefit from the work we have done. We are working on a storytelling component of the project through film and feel the impact will be great, as well.


Thank you for sharing all the wonderful work that is taking place in South Dakota!  I look forward to hearing more and about this project in the future.

In Delaware our governor proclaimed our state Trauma-Informed and we had a kick-off on May 1st with many state and nonprofit agencies attending.  My hope is that this work also carries over into the private sector.  Given your examples, I feel that Delaware Adult Education has the opportunity to be a leader in this process.


Welcome to our last day of our traum-informed discussion. We started with an overview of trauma and it's role in the experiences of our incarcerated and returning citizens. We then looked at a model where adult education programs worked with employers to aid in employee retention. Today, Jeri Gue will lead is through the trauma-informed classroom. What does this look like? And how do we implement it?

Good Morning All,

I have presented many trauma-informed workshops over the past few years that include defining trauma, encouraging self-care, providing background on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), and resiliency.  However, the big question is, “So, what does this mean for me as an adult educator?”  So, while we are not trained counselors or therapists (although some of you may be), there are instructional practices that we can incorporate into our classrooms that will help support our students with trauma, and avoid re-traumatizing them.

Trauma-informed instruction begins with the first encounter with a student or class. First, simply be aware that you will have students who have encountered, or who are encountering trauma. Introduce yourself, smile, and be respectful. Greet each student by their name and make eye- contact (I know this may be a cultural issue, so be mindful). While these actions may seem obvious, a warm, friendly greeting is powerful.  Knowing a student’s name demonstrates that you care about him/her as an individual.  Making eye-contact can sometimes help you “read” a student’s demeanor as they enter your classroom.  Let students know that you are sincerely grateful that they made the choice to attend class.  Your classroom may be the only environment where some students feel welcome.

Relate to students that they are in a safe environment physically, emotionally and socially.  In addition to the overall safety plan of a program, students need to feel secure in that they will not be ridiculed by a teacher, nor bullied by another student. Students with trauma may be living in unhealthy environments.  Your classroom may be their “safe place.”

Establish routines so that students know in advance how their time spent in class is structured.  Knowing what to expect from one moment to the next allows students to focus better on the task at hand, instead of being on alert for when activities and/or expectations will change. Your class may be the only time in a student’s day that is predictable and provides consistency.

Whenever possible, offer students choices. Students may need a mental break to avoid becoming overwhelmed or agitated. Perhaps a student can choose to work on a writing activity instead of becoming frustrated and agitated with a math equation. Another student may choose a specific seat in a classroom.  The ability to make a choice provides a sense of control that some students may not have in other aspects of their lives. Always remember that each student made a personal choice to attend class.

Know what resources are available to help students with trauma.  In Delaware, we have a common referral system that all AE programs use to connect students with needed resources.  Post these resources and contact information in classrooms and common areas so that, if a student does not want to disclose information about personal trauma, they still have access to help.

Finally, remember to exercise self-care so that you enter your classroom with the ability to model trauma-informed practices. This is not possible if you bring trauma and/or stress into your classroom.



I am appreciative of any reminders, tips and expertise we can draw on.  We are really working hard to ensure students are getting what they need with out being re-traumatized and trying to base everything on a transparent and respectful model.


Dr. Delvina Mire-Baldino defines resiliency as ”the dynamic interaction between perceived risk and a range of protective coping skills that provide an individual with the ability to negotiate, manage and adapt well in the face of adversity, and thrive in everyday life.”

If possible take the time to show the YouTube video, “What Trauma Taught Me About Resilience.”   In it, Charles Hunt describes how his Adverse Childhood Experiences helped him build resiliency in his life.  He says, “Life is easier when you’re prepared,” and, “Just because you can’t prepare for everything doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for something,” and “It’s OK to acknowledge I was a victim, but refuse to own being a victim.”  

Resilience skills can be learned so It is important to model resiliency in the classroom.  Use think-alouds to demonstrate persistence in content areas like math, reading, and writing.  Incorporate pro-active language and words into your conversations with students such as being resilient, being prepared, being equipped, taking the initiative.  Provide short examples of how you are resilient.  Perhaps the battery in your car died, but you were still able to make it to school because you had planned ahead (jumper cables, AAA, called a friend, etc.)

The instructional strategies provided earlier, along with modeling and speaking about resiliency are all ways to help our students build resiliency. Kristin Souers and Pete Hall talk about relationship, responsibility, and regulation to help foster resilient learners. We are able to build relationships with our students when we provide a safe, inviting educational environment. We can help our students take responsibility for their learning when we allow them to make some choices for themselves in an atmosphere of routines and consistency.  All of these practices help our students keep their emotions regulated so they are better able to focus on what they need to accomplish to achieve their academic goals. These practices also promote an environment where students can and want to remain. In other words, providing supports within a trauma-informed setting promotes both resilience and retention. (Eisenberg, Lipson & Posselt, 2016)

More information about resiliency can be found through the APA at


Thanks to everyone for this eye-opening discussion.  I'm wondering whether there is any reference for thinking about mediation as a tool for trauma-informed practices?  Mediation can take different forms, describes a process for individuals to discuss their disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third person, who assists them in reaching an agreement.  It is often used as an alternative to legal action, to resolve family, employer/employee, and business-related disputes.  

I'm curious if mediation could be considered a tool for trauma-informed employers to address disputes with employees in a way that might lead to the kinds of solutions Stephenie highlights in her examples?  You mention the power of story-telling, which is what mediation seeks to create space for both parties to share, in order to resolve their dispute.  While I marvel at how simple the solutions you shared were between employers and employees, too many times I've seen employees lose jobs because a seemingly avoidable conflict was not given the forum for both sides to feel heard.   

Employee unions have historically provided resources for mediation to help resolve some of these conflicts, and I wonder how much trauma-informed practices might work to help unions incorporate these practices into their mediation programs?  Any examples, or ideas for connecting these two valuable skill-sets would be great to hear about.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator   

Hi Mike, 
I re-read your response and realize I read meditation and not mediation, but yes - mediation is an excellent  practice in a trauma-informed environment. In fact, Stephenie's examples of trauma-informed employers is really great examples of mediation in action. Individuals are learning how to use their voice, openly discuss their needs, and develop strategies to maintain (or advance) in employment through active and engaged process. 


I think there are multiple ways the assistance can be given to students in a way that builds their own capacity to solve problems in a socially acceptable way while getting the results they need.  Because we are partnering with the Prosperity Initiative, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board, Love Inc., the Department of Labor and Regulation etc....mediation really does exist, but may not have been labeled as such.  

I also think it is very imperative the steps we take are done with the student and modeling the behavior we are hoping for to set it into their memories for later use.  

I agree that modeling is a key component of implementing trauma-informed practices.  Modeling and teaching resiliency, I believe, would be important for students to gain the skills (self-advocacy, self-determination) in mediation.  Trauma-informed care  is a practice and an understanding and, as such, encompasses all facets of life relationships.