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Clearview teachers to be certified in mental health first aid

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LORAIN — While educators across the county will be learning best practices for math or English teaching during Friday’s in-service day, Clearview schools will be focusing on a different aspect of its schools’ needs.

Educators, including administrators, will be getting certified in youth mental health first aid. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. staff will learn to recognize the signs of students in crisis and defuse situations by trainers from Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education, or AWARE, Ohio.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Paul Kish said the district’s approach is unique, being proactive about students’ social/emotional wellness.

“It’s first aid, it’s not long-term,” Kish said. “It’s general crisis, trauma that a student may be in, how to initially react to that. For example in a first-aid (physical) health situation, you’re not a doctor, you don’t prescribe the full remedy … for first aid you’re able to provide assistance, so it’s the same thing.”

More than 90 educators will be certified Friday, furthering Clearview’s focus on building relationships with students, Kish said.

“Instead of just plowing through with the curriculum and plowing through with the state mandates, we’re saying ‘no, this is more important’ that will lead to more effective learning,” he said. “These kids know that their teachers have their back, their teachers care about them as a whole child, more than just academics.”

While the steps the district is taking are preventative — there hasn’t been any major mental health crisis or suicide within the schools’ roughly 1,800 students this year — the spark for Kish to bring the training to Clearview was reactive. After a former colleague’s daughter killed herself, that colleague started “A Day to Liv,” offering a mental health initiative, Kish said.

Kish saw this initiative and reached out to the Education Service Center of Cuyahoga County to get the first aid training at Clearview — funded through a national grant. Come Monday morning, students won’t see a change in classrooms or curriculum, but — Kish hopes — in the way teachers relate to them during emotional situations.

“I was trained in it, where I saw an immediate impact right away was just how students were approached even in the hallway,” he said. “Like you might see a student angry or upset and in the past you might have a staff (person yell) … ‘Hey, stop it!’ whereas, after that training it’s like hey, this student is going through some stress, as opposed to just yelling back and adding to the chaos and the crisis. You come it at a supportive angle you’re more likely to defuse it and actually offer help.”

Each of the district’s three buildings will get two trainers, dividing staff up into two smaller groups. From there, they will learn the signs and resources available. While the training will be the same throughout the district, teachers are encouraged to ask questions to better understand how those signs would look at their grade level — as a 5-year-old kindergartner’s handling of trauma will look different than an 18-year-old high school senior, Kish said. Moving forward, Kish is working to get training for all school staff, from bus drivers to maintenance workers.

“This is a topic, an issue, that is very significant right now and I think part of that is because of the high suicide rate, high social/emotional issues that have been reported in school-age kids and I think eventually what you’ll see … a couple years from now, such training may eventually almost be required.”

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.
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