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May 6, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – As families around the world cope with isolation, illness and financial hardship, Eastern Oregon University faculty members shaped a new concentration to prepare teachers to respond to their students’ needs.
The Trauma in Educational Communities concentration is the only program of its kind in Oregon. It’s part of EOU’s Master of Science in Education program, available fully online. The new concentration, which opens for enrollment in fall 2020, offers ongoing education opportunities for working teachers.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Dean of the College of Education Matt Seimears found that a significant need for trauma-invested teachers existed in the region.
“Superintendents were calling me to ask what we can provide to help with traumatized students,” Seimears said. “We built this because of the demand in our schools.”
A team of EOU faculty began developing trauma-specific courses in September 2019 and worked collaboratively with K-12 schools to refine them.
“Faculty are in the schools seeing things first-hand. Most program developers never see that,” Seimears said. “We have the potential to be the leading institution in the state of Oregon with trauma and resilience.”
Associate Professor of Education Amanda Villagómez coordinates EOU’s Master of Science in Education Program and led the faculty team. She said many of the graduate students she works with had chosen to address trauma in educational settings as part of their thesis research.
“School districts offer some training, but they’re often expensive or hard to access. Plus, we wanted to dig deeper than a one-time training,” Villagómez said. “The coursework looks at individual and systemic traumas. They consider the intricacies and the role educators can play, as well as self-care and how teachers who engage in this work can proactively take care of themselves.”
Curriculum addresses all student age groups, from elementary through high school. Interactive elements and a flexible start term mean that students can complete all five courses in just three terms. The content is accessible and applicable to a range of educational professionals, from administrators, recent undergraduates, to substitute teachers, and those who’ve spent years in the classroom.
“We always have the lens of how this affects teachers in our area,” Villagómez said. “EOU is all about relationships, and that’s a big part of the coursework. A lot of what EOU stands for aligns well with principles of trauma-invested care.”
The curriculum development team was very intentional about addressing trauma through a culturally responsive and equitable lens. The College of Education has made culturally responsive teaching a priority across areas of study. In light of current global challenges, that inclusive approach has become even more valuable.
“The COVID pandemic is magnifying or bringing trauma to the surface,” Villagómez said. “Certain populations are having higher rates of impact, and it’s bringing inequities to the surface. Students who were stable before have been shaken up by this traumatic event. All that trauma has come to the forefront, according to what we’re hearing from partners and student teachers.”
The College of Education hopes to expand the concentration into a licensure specialization. For now, though, teachers across the region have access to up-to-the-moment relevant coursework that will assist them as they navigate the range of experiences students will bring back when their classrooms reopen for instruction.
More information about the Master of Science in Education program and the Trauma in Educational Communities concentration is available at online.eou.edu/programs/master-science-education.
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