In ISD 728, a large rural/suburban district, staff saw a connection between mental health, self-regulation and positive behavior choices throughout their high school classrooms. While the district had a strong multi-tier system of support, a district MTSS leader Rachel Hilyar recognized that another layer of intervention support would benefit extremely disengaged students at their four high schools and and six middle schools to help them get back on track. The District partnered with EmpowerU and enrolled disengaged students in a personalized online course with daily motivational coaching. Seeing previously disengaged students graduate provided compelling data to continue the partnership.
At ISD 728, addressing mental health and whole child well-being has been a school board goal since 2019. The district folded EmpowerU resources into its existing multi-tier system of supports.
As pandemic isolation exposed growing needs among younger students, ISD 728 asked to pilot EmpowerU’s curriculum over the summer for at-risk K-8 students. Using summer programming for the pilot, teachers experienced first-hand the truly turnkey curriculum that required minimal training and almost no teacher prep time. Students enjoyed learning to “take charge” of their thoughts and feelings and practiced calming exercises when big feelings were racing through their bodies.
Today, the team at ISD 728 staff members uses the EmpowerU modules for their K-8 students and EmpowerU is part of the MTSS Tier 2 Level of Support for both high school and middle school students.
With EmpowerU doing most of the heavy lifting, teachers see the benefits of the targeted services. Once students with non-academic needs (anxiety, AdHD, depression, avoidance, behavior challenges) are identified, coaches in the program begin to build relationships with students. By building positive behaviors and self-regulation through a multi-tier system of supports, students begin to make progress and increase their investment in learning.
ISD 728 has also taken advantage of EmpowerU’s Educator PD, covering the cost of the course and the teacher’s time to improve staff wellbeing and effectiveness in social-emotional learning. The pandemic took a toll on educators; it was emotionally exhausting and blurred workplace boundaries. The educator course reconnects teachers with their why, reteaches self-regulation and provides stress-coping and calming exercises that support wellbeing. Providing this reset opportunity for teachers is the first step to resetting an entire school climate.