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Riley School Principal moving to Eisenhower this fall
Schools teach emotional growth
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Lincoln Elementary School second-grade teacher Anna Loera is shown with two of her students, Kayden and Chloe, as they make a presentation to the school board on Thursday. - photo by Susan Thacker

Riley Elementary School Principal JoAnn Blevins will transfer to Eisenhower Elementary this fall, Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton said Thursday. 

After the school board accepted the resignation of Eisenhower Principal Laurie Harwood in February, eight people applied for the upcoming position, Thexton said when the school board held its monthly luncheon meeting at host school Lincoln Elementary. Blevins requested the transfer and now the district will need to find a new principal at Riley.

The school board approved this and other personnel changes:

• Kristi DeWerff was appointed to teach kindergarten at Riley and Robyn Heitschmidt was appointed as a gifted facilitator for Barton County Special Services.

• Barton County Special Services is losing two school psychologists. Peggy McMillon is retiring and Christina Sramek is resigning as she moves out of the district, Thexton said. The district already has a shortage of school psychologists but Thexton said Special Services Director Christie Gerdes continues to manage.

• Resignations were accepted from Darcy Leech, technology coach at Great Bend Middle School; Katie Zimmerman, special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary; and Tina Steinert, gifted facilitator/special services at GBMS and Great Bend High School.

Social Emotional Learning

Students at Lincoln and other schools are learning tools for dealing with frustration and other emotions, Principal Misty Straub said. Teachers learn which students need help and work on strategies with all of the children in daily Social Emotional Learning (SEL) time.

Second-grade teacher Anna Loera explained the SEL curriculum called “Second Step.”  

“We identify certain traits we should look for,” she said. Common behaviors that need to be addressed include students fibbing, taking things that don’t belong to them or showing signs of loneliness or peer rejection.

“We all might have anxious feelings,” Loera said, showing a photo of a girl who has just finished making a volcano for a science fair. Students are shown photos or videos and then they talk about the stories behind them. In this case, the girl’s body language shows she’s anxious and wondering if her volcano will work as planned.

Students learn to stop ... name the feeling they are experiencing ... and calm down. A bit of positive self-talk may be all that is needed.

Loera invited two of her second-graders, Chloe and Kayden, to join the school board meeting and talk about some of the strategies they’ve learned for dealing with stress. Chloe calls one of her favorite strategies “birthday candle.” If she feels anxious, she holds up her index finger like an imaginary candle and “blows it out.” It’s like mentally blowing away frustration.

Another technique is called belly breathing, also called balloon breathing, or as Kayden named it, “Bye-bye Worries.” It’s a deep-breathing technique that uses visualization and helps students calm down. Inhale deeply, imagining a balloon inflating in your belly. Then exhale, deflating the balloon.

All of the techniques are research-based and can work for adults, too.

Second Step has a 30-minute lesson every Monday and 15-minute activities Tuesday through Thursday. Units include such topics as focus, conflict resolution and empathy. On Friday the class reviews what they’ve learned and looks at how they’re doing. Every grade in elementary school has the program, Loera said. “Every year it expands with more vocabulary and deeper emotions.”

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Thursday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting, held at Lincoln Elementary School:

• A change in the meeting calendar was announced. The next meeting will be at 5 p.m. Monday, March 4, at the District Education Center. It was changed from March 11 because that is the start of Spring Break.

• Superintendent Khris Thexton said there will be changes to the flooring bid for Jefferson Elementary because 10 rooms contain asbestos floor tiles that will require removal by an approved abatement contractor. Following Federal guidelines, this will pose no health risks to students or anyone else in the building.

• A personnel report was approved in which JoAnn Blevins will transfer from being Riley Elementary Principal to being Eisenhower Principal.

• Lincoln Principal Misty Straub presented a building report on Social Emotional Learning at the school. Second-grade teacher Anna Loera and two of her students participated in the presentation.