Piqua schools utilize ‘teacher coaches’

By Aimee Hancock - Miami Valley Sunday News

PIQUA — The Piqua Board of Education heard from several elementary “teacher coaches” regarding their work within classrooms at Washington and Springcreek primaries.

These coaches — Shane Minnick and Martie Mohr at Washington, and Megan Williams and Frank Evans at Springcreek — specialize in SEL, or social and emotional learning, and aim to provide specialized support to teachers in order to give them the tools necessary to assist in the social and emotional skill development of their students.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, social-emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Within Ohio’s strategic plan for education, titled “Each Child, Each Future,” social-emotional learning is one of the four equal learning domains supporting a goal of preparing each student in Ohio for post-secondary life. The remaining three domains include foundational knowledge and skills, well-rounded content, and leadership and reasoning.

Along with this, according to Superintendent Dwayne Thompson, House Bill 318, a bill of legislation regarding school safety issues, which took effect last year, has required schools statewide to limit suspending kids in the third grade and younger.

“One question I often get is with that new bill is there anything a K-3 kid could do to get them removed, and the answer is yes,” Thompson said. “There are safety measures in place where if there is a severe threat made by the student or they’re a severe threat to themselves or anyone else, we can do that … but these strategies that (the coaches) have are doing an excellent job of keeping kids from getting to that point.”

Strategies used within elementary classrooms include breathing techniques/self-awareness; “zones,” which are areas designated to reflection, controlling behavior, and problem-solving; sayings, including “I am safe,” “I am calm;” and calm kits, which include a timer, a stress ball, and other items to calm students.

“If a student needs to calm down, they can use the ‘calm kit’ in the classroom,” Minnick said. “This keeps the students in the room, which allows them to still hear what’s going on in the class and return to the education and learning (once they’ve settled down).”

At Springcreek, students even have the opportunity to interact with a service dog named Stella, who is certified in AAT, or Animal-Assisted Therapy.

According to her owner, teacher coach Williams, Stella has been a therapy dog for 13 months.

“(Stella) was trained in love and affection, comfort to others, reducing stress and anxiety, and lots of other different things,” Williams said.

According to Williams, introducing Stella to young students within a school setting, while implementing guidelines for interaction with her, may provide anger management, stress control, responsibility, sensory benefits, self-control, and behavior incentives, among other things.

Williams noted that Stella is covered by insurance, and issues with student dog allergies and fears have been evaluated and managed.

“These teams respond to the needs that our buildings have,” said Assistant Superintendent Tony Lyons. “I also wanted to add that these (tools) aren’t something just for students with special needs; these are for all students. This is something that can benefit all students and teachers, and it’s a team effort.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved the supplemental rate certificate for the 3.0 mill Capital Improvement Levy, which was passed in May of this year.

• Approved the salary adjustment of 24 employees.

• Approved of FMLA leave for six employees.

• Approved the resignation of teacher David Williams, who has taught for PCS for 35 years, effective at the end of this school year.

• Approved the resignation of Joanna Marrs, effective Feb. 1, 2020.

• Approved the supplemental resignation of Diane Fox from her position as Building Leadership Team Chair.

• Approved the resignation of Sara Watson from her position as dean of students, effective Sept. 19, 2019, and approved Watson to the position of assistant principal at Springcreek, effective Sept. 19, 2019.

• Approved a list of classified substitutes, home instructors, substitute teachers, supplemental contracts, and volunteers for the 2019-2020 school year.

• Approved a resolution authorizing amendments and/or supplements to a ground lease agreement and a lease agreement, and related documents, in order to provide lease-purchase financing in the form of one or more series of certificates of participation in order to finance certain renovations, upgrades, and repairs to the junior high school and high school, along with related matters thereto.

• Approved a resolution allowing the district to refinance the school improvement bonds on the primary buildings, potentially saving the district, and taxpayers, $1 million in interest over the life of the bonds.

The next regular BOE meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, at 6 p.m., in the Board of Education Office, at 215 Looney Road.

By Aimee Hancock

Miami Valley Sunday News

Reach the writer at ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com. © 2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.

Reach the writer at ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com. © 2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.