Governor visits Stillwater to celebrate social/emotional learning

April 11, 2019
Governor and Lieutenant Governor with students

Students and staff at Stillwater Area High School (SAHS) had the opportunity to show off the incredible work underway to support kids to an audience of special guests - including the top lawmakers in the state.

Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, Commissioner of Education Mary Cathryn Ricker and other local lawmakers spent the morning at SAHS visiting classrooms and talking with students and staff about the importance of supporting students not just in academics, but in their social and emotional well-being.

It was Stillwater’s reputation that brought the special guests to the high school, the governor stated. The district’s focus on mental health, and the addition of programs like BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) and Peer Helpers, make Stillwater a leader among other school districts across the state.

During the visit, the lawmakers observed a BARR team meeting where teachers met together to discuss their shared students and any issues that may be causing some to struggle in class or in their social lives. The  BARR program creates small learning communities of core teachers who work with the same group of ninth grade students to help them successfully navigate their first year in high school. BARR allows kids and teachers to get to know one another, build meaningful relationships, and ultimately, ensure no one slips through the cracks.

The guests also spoke with students who are serving as Peer Helpers. This group of kids has been specially trained to support and guide classmates through the social and emotional complexities of high school. Peer Helpers give students a safe place to talk through the issues they’re facing, and if needed, an advocate to help them connect with counselors or other adults who can help.

“Students learn best when they feel safe and comfortable, and when they believe that their teachers really care about them,” said Superintendent Denise Pontrelli. “We’ve been focused on providing that welcoming environment for our students, and we’re thrilled our lawmakers recognize and appreciate the great work underway in Stillwater Area Public Schools.”

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