Jackie Brown Classroom August 2018

Roosevelt Elementary School teacher Jackie Brown calls it “the face of trauma” when a student enters her classroom with a complicated family life and sometimes devastating childhood experiences. Over the course of her 28 years of teaching, she has witnessed countless students showing up to school and fighting for hope in spite of their adverse experiences.

Her essay Daughter of Addiction was published this summer in “Teaching Tolerance” magazine. In her writing, Brown shares her experience with a particular student, showing how empathy, love and healing for herself became a part of the solution.

School staff use the term adverse childhood experiences or ACES to describe some student lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the CDC-KAISER ACE study in the mid-1990s and identified 10 ACES. The study found that people who had more than four of these experiences often struggled in school and life and even had poor health outcomes later in life.  Many of these students experience great difficulty in school.

Steve Morse, director of Teaching and Learning and a 24-year veteran principal, says these difficulties present themselves in behavioral issues, peer problems and academic issues in our classrooms and schools.

“Studies indicate that children who have experienced trauma early in their lives may have many more challenges and struggles than those that don’t,” Morse says.

Supporting classroom teachers, Bellingham Public Schools is committed to meeting the social and emotional needs and mental health needs of our students.

“We are currently in the process of adding a social emotional learning curriculum for grades K-8,” Morse continues.We also have added licensed mental health therapists in 11 schools through partnerships with Sea Mar and Compass and increased the number of school counselors from 21 to 34 since 2004.”

Morse worked with Brown at Roosevelt. “Ms. Brown has always had a heart for kids,” he says. “This story shows how she was able to fulfill The Bellingham Promise of showing how every child should be loved.”

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