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Helping SEP Become a Safe and Welcoming Place for All Students

February 25, 2015

Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch
Keynote speaker Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch speaks about education and diversity.

One of the basic fundamentals of learning is to do so in a safe, supportive environment. Several factors can lead to a student feeling unsafe or threatened at school. To address these factors, Southeast Polk Community School District  (SEP) called on the support of Heartland AEA and namely Stephaney Jones-Vo, ELL/Diversity Consultant, to help organize and hold a safe and supportive schools professional development day.

District administrators wanted to be as inclusive as possible and include cultural competence and digital citizenship issues tailored to SEP needs. Over 60 breakout sessions were offered at the event focused on providing safe, welcoming learning environments for different student groups. Several Heartland AEA staff members lead these sessions including the following:

Digital Citizenship/Responsible Use of Technology
Erica Lea, Instructional Technology Consultant
Denise Krefting, Instructional Designer (AEA PD Online)

Socio-Economic Continuum
Janelle Thompson, Literacy Consultant
Gilmara Vila Nova Mitchell, Professional Learning and Leadership Consultant
Sue Ford, Professional Learning and Leadership Consultant

Students with Disabilities and Individual Differences
Terry Mendell, Parent & Educator Connection Coordinator Lead
Kate Boonstra, Parent & Educator Connection Coordinator

Heartland AEA was instrumental in securing the morning keynote speaker, Lt. Col. Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, who faced challenges of poverty, discrimination and illiteracy to rise and become the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army.

Educators were also given the opportunity to listen to Scott Law, Director of Public Safety for Drake University, who gave the afternoon keynote focused around incivility and social media.

Special kudos goes to Jan Morgan, Graphic Designer, for designing the conference banner and several handouts.

“It was an excellent day of learning, and we truly appreciate our partnership with Heartland AEA to help make it happen,” Jo Ellen Latham, SEP Director of Curriculum and Instruction, said. “The day provided many learning opportunities on balancing personal connections with responsible technology use. I felt our staff was very open and responsive to the ideas presented and that the end result will be a safer and more welcoming environment for all students.”

Janelle Thompson
Janelle Thompson discusses how poverty affects classroom engagement for young learners.
SEP educators collaborate during Erica Lea's breakout session
SEP educators collaborate during Erica Lea's breakout session.


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