Education in the First State
December 23, 2020
Editor's Note: As we look toward 2021 - and oh how we do look forward to the new year - this month's issue of Take Note highlights some of our favorite stories from the past twelve months. Though this year has been challenging, we hope these stories demonstrate how much we value and celebrate the great work of our students and educators in 2020. Space has limited our selections - there are so many other great stories to revisit! - so don't consider this list exhaustive. Enjoy these highlights from 2020 and let us know what we should be celebrating in 2021 by emailing us your story ideas at past issues of Take Note here. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season, and thank you to the educators, families, community partners and others for the hard work you do every day to support education for Delaware students.
A 2020 holiday message from Secretary Bunting

Red Clay's Kimberly Stock named Teacher of the Year

McKean High School Teacher Kimberly Stock was named Delaware's 2021 State Teacher of the Year at a virtual celebration earlier this month (more pics). 
An English learner teacher from the Red Clay Consolidated School District is Delaware's 2021 State Teacher of the Year.
Kimberly Stock of McKean High School now is Delaware's nominee for National Teacher of the Year. She will use her position to share her message about how schools must adapt to give students equitable access and opportunities.
Secretary of Education Susan Bunting made the announcement by surprising family and colleagues gathered at McKean High to view the virtual celebration at a socially distanced watch party. The virtual celebration honored all 20 district and charter teachers of the year who, due to COVID-19 precautions, watched the televised and streamed broadcast at small gatherings across the state instead of joining together at the typical statewide banquet.
Stock's passion for supporting students who face difficult challenges comes from her own life experiences. Abandoned as a child in South Korea, Stock said she does not know her age, birth place or given name.
"After living with a foster family in Korea, I was adopted by a white family in Nebraska. Despite experiencing moments of trauma, racism, illness, loss and death caused by ethnic violence, I have been given new opportunities and second chances," she said. "Only through God's grace and many opened doors by people who believed in me do I stand here today."
Watch the virtual celebration and announcement online here. Photos of Stock being named Delaware's 2021 Teacher of the Year are available here.
More information on all 20 nominees is available here.

Wellbeing, resilience especially important this year  
Capital School District students adhere to social distancing and mask requirements during this year's Summer Boost 2020 program. 
Editor's Note: This guest piece is written by Teri Lawler in DDOE's Office of Equity and Innovation.  

And How Are the Children? This Maasai tribal greeting pricked my heart when I heard it many years ago.  It has been top of mind as I reflect on the unsettling events of the last five months and intensify preparations for the school year ahead.   In times of joy and pain, peace and war, the Maasai men and women approached with the greeting, "Casserian Engeri" - translated "And how are the children?"  Regardless of the circumstances, they expected the traditional return response, "All the children are well."  Their personal lives, worldly circumstances, nor politics altered the high value placed on their children's wellbeing.  While their simple inquiry and response encompassed so much more about their tribal society and culture, what is evident at the core is their belief that how they cared for the needs of children mattered for the future.  As go the children, so go the tribe.  The Maasai were legacy minded and recognized that their youth represented seeds of greatness for future prosperity and sustainability of their people. 

This message has become central to Delaware's approach to social and emotional learning as a strategic intent for building whole child wellbeing and ultimately community resilience.  We have adopted an ecological model to build concentric circles of support around children and youth to create a culture of care.  Central to our culture of care is the neuroscience of development, attachment theory, emotion regulation, and educator self-care.  We focus on what relationships and coping skills look like when derailed by developmental trauma and toxic stress and respond with a resilience-informed approach that relies on trust-based relationships for healing-centered engagement.  Recognizing that adults cannot pour from an empty well, we place a high priority on recognizing vicarious trauma and burnout to support educator retention. 

We have stretched our "resilience muscles" to combat these challenges with an aggressive capacity-building model that is loaded with professional learning, book studies, and simulations to engage the heart, shift mindsets, and inform professional practices.  Themes include social and emotional learning and mindfulness as universal supports, restorative practices, culturally responsive teaching, equitable and just schools, as well as trauma-informed practices, positive childhood experiences, and protective factors to tip the scales of adversity.  Our offerings are differentiated so educators are encouraged to reflect and exercise autonomy over their readiness and capacity for challenge.  We have also woven professional learning throughout to assure that everyone in our community who has the opportunity to engage with children and youth has the capacity to do so.  Professional development for educators has been extended to parents, out-of-school time partners, and community centers. 

Every educator in our state was provided subscriptions to the Headspace app in June of 2019.  We had no idea at that time how much we would need them.  Since mid-March, we have hosted 16 weeks of mindfulness sessions that focused on the SEL competencies through our partnership with Pure Edge, Inc.  We have included weekly sessions for families and caregivers who had taken on the responsibilities of full-time care and virtual learning.  We pivoted to host our whole child summer learning institute online.  Offerings included a 12-hour training for trainers on trauma-informed practices, a 15-hour data use for school improvement series entitled Analysis to Action, a 20-hour Bootcamp to move our school communities from trauma-sensitive to trauma-responsive, AND a 4-hour, self-paced learning opportunity called Neuro Logic Classrooms to assure that brain-based strategies to facilitate engagement were incorporated throughout.  Lastly, we are hosting 12 differentiated book studies facilitated by teacher leaders from August until October to support the transition into the school year.  There is truly something offered for everyone.  We made a special effort to meet people where they are - just as we expect for students - and we are evaluating for impact including shifts in mindset.

We believe that we are BETTER TOGETHER and infuse that running theme throughout our work. The Delaware SEL Core Team and Collaborative led the charge with the adoption of K-12 SEL competencies that aligned with our state's early childhood SEL standards.  This dedicated group of educators and committed stakeholders will facilitate workgroups to create implementation tools for SEL integration in academic content areas as well as in homes, out of school, and community spaces.  Educators and business leaders will come together for the CASEL Bridge project, "crosswalking" the SEL and CTE competencies to strengthen career pathways for Delaware youth.  Restart and recovery efforts will be fortified with the support of other youth-serving agency partners joining forces to host a statewide Whole Child Community of Practice facilitated by Transforming Education.  We will enhance strategic communications with the support of WestEd's Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety.  Moreover, Project THRIVE, our multi-year, trauma recovery demonstration project funded by the US Department of Education, will allow the Delaware Department of Education to fund trauma-specific therapeutic services for all students attending public and private schools, fortifying our MTSS framework.  It is our BIG DREAM that all of these efforts have mitigated the threat and prepared us for the battle ahead, allowing us to affirm like the mighty Maasai warriors that in spite of these unprecedented times, the community is safe, the future is secure, because Delaware's children are well! 

Teachers: Continue to be superheroes world needs
Editor's Note: This guest column is from 2020 Delaware Teacher of the Year Rebecca Vitelli, a special education preschool teacher in the Colonial School District. Check out more pics here.
"What superpower do you wish you could have?" A question posed by a friend to her 3rd grade students online sparked an important conversation as one student's answer stood out: "I would want the power to not get sick." In my preschool world, one family shared that their 4-year-old child with autism is having night terrors and waits at the door for the bus clutching her lunchbox. And my cousin, a teacher in New York, shared that, during a FaceTime playdate, his 5-year-old daughter said nonchalantly to her friend, "Maybe when we're free we can go to the movies?" Each of these anecdotes sets the scene for today's narrative: Whether they can articulate it or not, this new reality is affecting kids deeply. Whether we choose to share it or not, it is affecting all of us deeply.
Once perceived as a bit trite, this quote embellished on tee-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters has proven true: "Not all heroes wear fact, some have teaching degrees!" Educators, while our buildings may be closed for the year - our call to action is more urgent than ever. When we chose this profession, we never could have imagined this situation. Just as Iron Man longs for a day "when there aren't 20 crises to deal with, but not seeing that coming any time soon," we too are feeling overwhelmed by the needs of our students, families, and communities. And there is a silent mourning for the loss of what could have been. Perhaps you share some of these thoughts... Know you are not alone. EVERY teacher is doing his or her best. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Delaware educators release message of support

An Open Letter From Delaware Educators to our Students...
Delaware educators from across the state have released a message of unity and support for students and colleagues. The video reminds students that Delaware teachers hear them, value them and will continue to fight for racial justice in our communities and classrooms.
Families, colleagues celebrate outstanding educators

Allen Frear Elementary School Teacher Sarah Hanson gets a shout-out from a student during this year's Teacher Appreciation Week.

Delaware students, families, schools and the community recognized educators in early child care facilities, pre-K settings and K-12 schools throughout the state during this year's Teacher Appreciation Week in early May. New this year, the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) developed a form to accept submissions thanking our incredible Delaware teachers. During the week, DDOE received over 425 shout-outs from students, families and colleagues. People also posted their own messages using the hashtag #IloveDEteachers

Posts celebrating teachers were shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Check out this roundup of social media posts to see how Delaware schools and communities showed appreciation for our great educators. Thank you all for your support of our amazing teachers! 

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