Two Washougal teachers, Sara Elmore and Erin Darling, are attending courses at the University of Oregon Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavior Health with scholarship funding provided by the Camas-Washougal Rotary.

The educators are attending coursework this year that builds their skills in responding to mental health needs in youth, and providing tools that teachers can use in the classroom to create a structure where students thrive. Courses this year have focused on teaching self-regulation to children, using trauma informed support in the classroom, and developing and maintaining healthy relationships. These evidence-based interventions promote well-being in youth, and prevent mental health problems from developing and worsening in our students.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Student Services Aaron Hansen helped connect our teachers with this opportunity with support from the Camas-Washougal Rotarians Kathy and David Bussman. Washougal School District hopes to expand this program to include another six teachers. The district’s goal is to build a train-the-trainer model that creates the capacity within our schools for all teachers to use these practices.

The new strategies educators learn through this coursework fit into the district’s Multi-Tiered System of Support, which is a team driven approach to providing a continuum of support for students, families, and our school staff. Hansen said, “These strategies provide our teachers with tools to proactively respond to student behavior, and help them recognize when to involve other specialists in support of students.” Addressing the underlying mental health challenges that cause disruptive behavior ensure every student spends more time focused on the engaging learning activities in the classroom.

About the Ballmer Institute: The Ballmer Institute was made possible by a $425 million gift from Steve and Connie Ballmer, and is the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken by a university and its partners to answer the growing crisis in children’s behavioral health and well-being. The clinical institute strives to effect change across family, community, and school aspects of children’s lives. The Ballmer Institute serves the University of Oregon’s mission of research, training, and public impact, and transforms the Pacific Northwest into a national model of thought and action to address challenges in children’s behavioral health.