School board approves PD day to address behavioral challenges in students

Teachers take on the responsibility of not only educating, but caring deeply about their students. It is not just readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic, it is also relationship building and guidance. Director of Curriculum for Humboldt County, Colby Corbitt, asked the School Board to approve a Professional Development Day on May 13 in order to bring in an intensive special educator out of Massachusetts to provide training to Pre-K through 6th grade teachers.

The motion carried unanimously with most members present and Board Member Lori Woodland present via web-call and Board Member Christopher Entwistle absent. 

Board Certified Behavior Analyst and intensive special educator, Jessica Minahan, will take teachers through specific behavioral intercession curriculum and offer other resources for dealing with reactive students over a four-day period. 

Corbitt said, “We know that our schools and our educators are dealing with challenging students and challenging behaviors that no one has seen before.”

Corbitt expressed that the pandemic has heightened many behavioral problems among students and teachers are in need of extra guidance in order to connect with them accordingly. Corbitt added that this is the district’s attempt at giving not only teachers the support that they deserve, but students as well. 

“She specializes in training staff and behavioral intervention plans for students who demonstrate explosive and unsafe behavior,” said Corbitt in regards to Minahan. 

Minahan has a master’s degree in education and her background includes working with students that have emotional and behavioral disabilities, anxiety disorders and high-functioning autism according to Corbitt.  

Unfortunately, disruptions in the classroom are not uncommon and have many nuanced and complex forms as a result of the uncertain times that students experienced during the pandemic, but Minahan’s expertise will help teachers to better understand their students. The students who do not seem to have the same type of obstacles may also suffer from the distraction that behavioral disorders can cause, thus affecting everyone in the classroom. Corbitt played one of Minahan’s instructional videos for the board to give them a better idea of her training methods. It discussed the implications of the pandemic on behavior, with kindergarten and first grade students never experiencing a typical school year pre-pandemic. She pointed out that if the 5th grade students have not experienced an ordinary school year since 3rd grade, it would make sense for them to regress back to 3rd grade behavior. She also explained that this may cause students to act with very high levels of energy, or with symptoms of “social-starvation,” which can be overwhelming within the classroom and have implications towards student maturity and safety. 

Corbitt said Minahan “combines these interventions with comprehensive knowledge and best practices and complex mental health profiles.”

Board Member Nicole Bengochea added her own thoughts to the matter, “I think it’s great. I think it was probably needed before the pandemic, but it’s really needed after the pandemic.”

The approved support instruction will cost the district $18,800 and will allow teachers to feel more equipped to teach students with behavioral disabilities. The board agreed that it will be time and money well-spent.