Guest blogger Alicia Whisler speaks about a powerful new elementary school program “The Legend of Miss Kendra” which teaches children about resilience and how to cope with toxic stress.
Everyday, parents across the country entrust teachers, principals, and other school staff with ensuring the safety and protection of their children. A teacher’s job is especially important, as they are not only responsible for promoting informative and interactive educational materials, but also providing opportunities for character building. Aside from parents, teachers are often the people that children interact with most, making their impression in a young child’s life especially influential. They are, in many cases, the only adult in a child’s life with whom they can feel a sense of safety and protection. For children who have faced abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence a teacher can become the first line of defense and intervention.
Schools in Minnesota and Connecticut have implemented a program titled The Legend of Miss Kendra which began in New Haven, Connecticut and was formed under the ALIVE program initiative. ALIVE’s mission is to create open lines of communication between children, teachers, and parents so that feelings of anxiety, anger, and depression do not interfere with a child’s educational goals. The program titled Miss Kendra’s Letters, focuses on kindergarten-5thgrade, and utilizes a bill of rights to teach children which behaviors are appropriate between adults and children and how to cope with negative emotions. For elementary-age children, they are able to voice their concerns to the fictional character through hand-written letters. ALIVE counselors then respond to every child and use their expertise to bring encouragement and strength to each child’s particular situation. The program has proven effective in reducing stress for both children and teachers, the number of school suspensions, and the number of children sent for principal referrals. By integrating Miss Kendra’s Letters across more schools throughout the U.S., we could see a significant reduction in the level of toxic stress and anxiety that interfere with children’s academic performance.
Alicia Whisler is a mother to a wonderful two-year-old boy and fiance to an amazing man. She is currently a Senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, majoring in Sociology-Human Services. Her goal after graduation is to attend a master’s program for social work and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to work with children and families in her local community. She is excited to see where her education takes her and to find out what the future holds!
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