Colleen Lelli, EdD, Associate Professor of Education and Director of Cabrini’s Barbara and John Jordan Center for Children of Trauma and Domestic Violence Education, authored a book published in late 2020 that provides educators with resources to support students who have experienced trauma.
Lelli’s book, Trauma-Sensitive Schools: The Importance of Instilling Grit, Determination, and Resilience, explores the ways in which adverse childhood experiences affect a person’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral growth over time and offers educators field-tested tools to support the growth of children who have lived with trauma. Trauma-Sensitive Schools stands out among other publications treating trauma in education by including self-care tactics for educators experiencing vicarious trauma in the field. To develop these strategies, Lelli drew on her extensive research as well as over 25 years of classroom experience with children of all backgrounds, including those who have experienced trauma.
“Schools will give professional development training and say they’re trauma-informed without looking at the full totality of procedures,” said Lelli, the winner of the 2020 Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, Cabrini’s highest individual teaching honor. “In order to have a trauma-informed operation, there needs to be a framework for everyone working at the school.”
Teachers and counselors should begin by integrating trauma as a consideration in their student interactions and evaluations, she added.
“Lots of people don’t consider if a child has experienced trauma,” she said. “When children come to be evaluated for a learning disability, trauma is not on the questionnaire. Instead of asking, ‘What’s wrong with you?,’ we should be asking, ‘What happened to you?’”
Lelli’s book pre-dates pandemic considerations, but the Jordan Center Director said trauma-informed schools are essential for pandemic-era education. In a recent interview with KYW, Lelli said, for teachers and their students, the pandemic is a “mass-trauma” event.
Trauma-Informed Schools was read and reviewed by Cabrini’s Thomas R. Conway, EdD, Assistant Professor, Johanna Crocetto, DSW, Assistant Professor, Social Work; Amber Gentile, EdD, Assistant Professor, Education; and Amy Lee Persichetti, EdD, Chair and Associate Professor, English.