OAK HILL, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education celebrated American Education Week on Wednesday with a presentation and discussion of a recently-enacted Careers in Education program aimed at preparing future educators for teaching in the midst of the opioid crisis.
During the event at the Fayette Institute of Technology in Oak Hill, students shared their experiences in the Life and Recovery Coach Training program; the effort includes specialized trauma-informed lifecoach instruction designed to equip teachers with guidance in dealing with the impact of substance abuse on children in the classroom.
According to the state Department of Education, the signs of trauma in a child often are subtle and require an awareness of behavioral cues and an understanding of the most effective techniques for approaching a child who may be reluctant to discuss an experience connected to a parent or authority figure who is involved in substance abuse.
“Some of the things that the kids go through that maybe aren’t as harsh as (what has happened to) the adults but still very traumatizing to the students, you can pick out certain things from that and apply them to when you’re a teacher in a classroom dealing with the student who is going through something as traumatic as that,” said Emily Lewis, a Fayette Institute of Technology student and member of Educators Rising West Virginia.
Robert Keaton, a Career Technical Education Program Director for Fayette County Schools, said one of the most important aspects of his job is making certain that students who express in interest in teaching become clear-eyed about what they are likely to encounter in the profession, as a result of the drug epidemic.
“A lot of times you have to step outside of what people think an educator’s role is, to try to help fill in those gaps,” Keaton told MetroNews. “All of us in education — or a high percentage — are doing what we do because there was a teacher that made a connection with us at some point. It may have not dealt with drugs or other issues at the home but, in some way, it was a lasting impact. Regardless of what the issue is, if a teacher’s able to do that for somebody, it can help overcome a lot of struggles.”
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine applauded the efforts of administrators to find ways of addressing the challenges of teaching effectively in the context of a modern classroom setting that often includes overcoming impediments to learning for traumatized children.
“We are determined to help equip aspiring educators with the skills and support needed to be effective in the classroom. This requires training beyond content knowledge, they also must be able to intervene in ways that were unheard of 10 years ago,” said Paine in a statement. “Our Career in Education students start college with significant classroom and field experience under their belts. Combined with lifecoach preparation, they leave high school more advanced because they have received training that was not previously available.”
Life and Recovery Coach instruction and certification for the department’s Careers in Education program is being provided by Greater Recovery and Community Empowerment Academy, which conducts training courses statewide.
Students participating in the program can earn up to nine hours of college credit while in high school.