Amanda Pawelski

Laurel Elementary School of Arts and Technology
Fort Collins, Colorado

Best Practices

1) One of my best practices can be seen in how I work with students through behavior. Behavior is a form of communication and emotional expression. Like academic areas, behavior can be shaped by helping students understand where they are today, where they need to be, and what it will take to get there. I am always learning more about behavior and learning systems in order to guide our students in making intentional and informed choices, and to guide our staff by increasing their knowledge of how to support students in making those intentional and informed choices. We implement schoolwide community circles and restorative practices so that students all feel seen, heard, and are given the opportunity to grow out of moments of struggle. I strive to ensure that every behavior incident I address results in a student understanding where they took a misstep, the impact it had on others, the ability to own that misstep and impact, and the opportunity to make it I help students engage in conversations with each other so that they can hear directly from their peers, both to learn more about the other person and to have the voice to explain or share about themselves as well. When students are able to understand and take ownership of their behavior and to engage in open conversation with each other, they can make more informed future decisions, better understand their relationship and interconnectedness with others, and understand their importance as a community member. These moments show students that despite the missteps they will inevitably make along the path of learning and growing, they are valued, I care about them as individuals, and they matter to who we are as a school and community. Another aspect to behavior shifting comes proactively through explicit teaching and reteaching of community expectations. Every month, I look over the behavioral incidents that have occurred to determine any areas in need of further teaching or another analysis of root cause, and I team with other staff to ensure those changing and shifting needs are being met. In combination, by meeting with individual students to address specific needs or incidents, and by looking at the bigger picture of what is happening, where, and why, 1 am better able to ensure that students come to school in a safe and supportive environment and that they will learn and grow.

2) Another best practice is that I make sure all people I cross paths with, from the grandparent dropping off their grandchild in the morning, to the rushed guardian needing to get their student to an appointment, from staff members to students, feel seen, heard, and There are many “best practice” systems that are implemented across many wonderful schools, including mine, but what really makes the difference to the people within the school and to the community members, is knowing that the school values them and who they are as individuals within the school community. Every moment you connect with another person is a moment you have been given to make a meaningful impact. Making people feel valued is especially important to me because our school community is made up of a wide range of people from many diverse backgrounds, whether economic, academic, linguistic, cultural, or any of the many ways society has historically ranked and sorted people, leaving some more valued and some less valued. When you enter my school, you are a human being first, and you matter to me, and you matter to who we are as a community. I value you because you are you. It is my job to make sure that everyone knows they have a place in our school and in the world of education, no matter what, and I take that very seriously. I have comforted crying young ones to make sure their mom is able to attend a parent­ teacher conference for an older sibling, driven a student to school because their family’s car broke down, sat on the floor in the hallway to help a student re-tie their shoes, hung up their game schedules, sat rink-side at their hockey practice, sent notes home to families about their child’s accomplishments, and I will continue to do whatever it may take to ensure all of our community members know I am here for them and working alongside them to make our school the wonderful human place of learning that it is, and to make sure they know they can count on me to be there for their children.