Walking into Analisa McCann’s first-grade classroom at Broadway Elementary could seem like a normal everyday classroom. However, you might notice a student that has quietly left the reading circle to take time away in a rocking chair, separate from the rest of his classmates, while reading a book to help calm himself so that he can return to learning with the rest of the class.
McCann has dedicated the last few years to “teaching with trauma in mind,” using trauma-invested strategies to change her teaching methods along with those at her school. The result: increased learning and decreased numbers of student discipline.
Her efforts were recognized recently, as McCann was named the 2019-2020 Regional Teacher of the Year as well as 2019 Educator of the Year by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Research shows that trauma affects children’s brains, which in turn impacts how they can learn. Some are just wired to be in a constant fight, flight or freeze mode.
“Kids need to feel safe, comfortable and loved,” McCann said. “They need healthy bonds with adults they consider trustworthy.”
The aforementioned rocking chair student started the school year with frequent meltdowns that disrupted the class. His first lesson was not about reading, writing or math; it was about how to stay safe.
“He has the right to go to the rocking chair whenever he wants,” she said. “He’s still listening. He’s still participating.”
Now with self-regulated emotions, he’s able to make progress academically because he isn’t constantly leaving the classroom.
McCann is usually one of the first to arrive at school, connecting with students at breakfast and greeting them at her door. She also is there for them after school. Her caring reaches far beyond the school’s walls.
“One relationship can make a difference in kids’ lives. If I can be that person, I’m lucky and honored,” she said. “It’s not just their life that changes, it’s mine. When I am teaching, I am my true self. These students are my why.”
NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in the 2020 Liberty Lake Yearbook.