Kanawha City

Kanawha City Elementary's focus revolves around the holistic development of the students, with equal attention given to their academic and social-emotional growth. Utilizing Title I funding, a Student Support Teacher (SST) position was established for a teacher who demonstrated exceptional classroom management skills and a profound understanding of the significance of cultivating meaningful student-teacher relationships. Now, in its third year of operation, this role has brought about a transformation from a disciplinary approach to one centered on student support.

This additional support has had a profound impact on the overall atmosphere at KCE. The SST initiated communication with all teachers, including the Counselor and Principal, through a group text whenever a student required assistance with issues related to impulse control, self-regulation, heightened emotions, or aggression. A primary focus of this effort is the "Love List," a group of the ten students with the greatest behavioral support needs. The SST greets each Love List student upon their arrival, checks in with them during lunch, and at the end of each day. During these interactions, she engages in meaningful and supportive discussions about their achievements and areas for improvement, reinforcing their sense of value and affection.

Rather than sending students to the principal's office for infractions, the SST intervenes in the classroom to provide support, enabling students to remain in class and stay on task. Her classroom also serves as a designated cool-down space for any student experiencing overstimulation or in need of de-escalation. Equipped with a variety of seating options, work areas, soft lighting, and tactile equipment, this space allows students to regain their composure or receive consequences before returning to class, significantly minimizing disruptions to instructional time.

Furthermore, the SST has fostered positive and trusting relationships with families, maintaining daily communication through text messages. This regular interaction assists in devising appropriate consequences and enforcement when necessary, and ensures consistent use of positive language and strategies that can be applied both at school and at home.

The daily accountability and follow-through previously unattainable for a principal alone, given the ever-changing and demanding schedule of a school, have substantially reduced behavioral issues that used to escalate to physical aggression and possible suspensions. Now, thanks to the SST, suspensions have markedly decreased, with policy-based suspensions being the only resort. The whole child approach enabled by the Student Support Teacher equips students not only with a solid education but also with coping skills and strategies necessary to reach their full potential. This position at KCE demonstrates the profound impact of one caring adult investing their time every day to prioritize at-risk students, reaffirming that the influence of a single compassionate individual can indeed make a significant difference.