Lions Club grant provides Sandy Hook teachers with training to help students cope

Cassie Szmyd, a first-year teacher assigned to teach first grade this fall at Sandy Hook Elementary, left, and Emily Beahm, also a first grade teacher, look over the materials given to them Wednesday by Lions Quest during a training day. Melissa Topey/Daily

Teachers at Sandy Hook on Wednesday received training from Lions Quest on socio-emotional behavior to help students deal with their emotions in appropriate ways.

“I feel that I am going to be more equipped,” said Elizabeth Barnes during a break from the training. Barnes will be starting her teaching career in the fall, assigned to teach fourth grade at Sandy Hook.

The Lions Club supports Lions Quest, a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade social and emotional learning program in use by educators all over the world.

Brittany Krabill,  a special education teacher, said she is excited about the program. “I feel hopefully I can reach all my students.”

Social and emotional skills provide the foundation for dealing with anger and frustration, preventing negative behaviors and helping kids learn positive behaviors with the goal of improving school performance and developing more adjusted children who grow into well-adjusted adults, said Principal Robin Shrum.

“We see more and more kids who are struggling with how to comport themselves (in) school and control their emotions and their behavior,” Shrum said. “They don’t know if they are mad, what to do with it.”

There is an ever-growing trend of children nationwide who are exhibiting such behavior, she said. What is being seen goes far beyond throwing a tantrum, she said.

Research over the last five years confirms the epidemic and experts are considering whether a lot of troubling behavior stems from early childhood trauma, she said.

The Woodstock Lions Club partnered with Shrum to apply for a $10,000 Lions Quest grant from the Lions International Foundation.

The grant paid for Lions Quest instructors Frances Portillo and Oliver Winston to come in for the day and provide training to the teachers.

“It allows teachers to deal with what is happening. It is adaptable to what they are experiencing in the classroom,” Winston said

The grant also paid for all needed materials as well as lunch, Shrum said.

Shrum found the program and approached the Lions Club with her proposal.

Ray Powell, grant project coordinator for the Woodstock Lions Club said helping the school in this way is a natural continuation of the work the Lions Club does with promoting sight and hearing.

“We are all interested in helping our schools,” he said.“We have doctors, a retired principal on our group. They jumped all over it.”