There is nothing more motivating for teachers and school support staff than identifying ways they can reach students.

That is happening statewide as the Illinois Education Association, with 135,000 union members, addresses the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on the ability of students to learn. New brain research proves ACEs, recurring experiences that create such trauma that the brain literally changes, lead to behaviors such as fighting, fleeing or shutting down.

ACEs include such issues as neglect, abuse, violence, family members with mental health problems, divorce and deaths. These experiences can happen to anyone, no matter one’s socio-economic status. In fact, most recently Britain’s Princes William and Harry acknowledged that the death of their mother, Princess Diana, when they were both young, was an adverse experience that affected their well-being.

Overcoming ACEs is possible when caring adults provide love and support. Teachers and support personnel, family service providers, doctors, etc., are studying recent brain research and the effect of ACEs on students. This research has opened new insights into students and new techniques to help them deal with their social and emotional well-being.

The Partnership for Resilience is now the focus of our organization’s work as new relationships with community groups, parents, and our union are being forged and expanded across the state. Ideas that are being implemented have increased student attendance, reduced suspensions, and brought people together for the success of students.

The Illinois Education Association, the education employees’ union, has always believed in working for the success of students, in engaging with community leaders, and in partnering with parents. Our organization’s work in trauma and assisting students is being recognized by the National Education Association (NEA) with the prestigious Human and Civil Rights Award at the annual NEA Representative Assembly on July 1.

This work around ACEs has added new approaches to help students. Highly motivated teachers and support staff provide great value to students, schools and the communities they serve and there is nothing more motivating, or fulfilling for educators, than seeing their students become more successful!

Cinda Klickna is president of the Illinois Education Association in Springfield.

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