Winsted Elementary finds success by highlighting the positive

7:13 AM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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WINSTED, Minn. --  A chilly spring made it necessary for Amy Ohelmacher-Lonetti's kindergartners to don their winter jackets for recess into May.

Inside the classroom, there's nothing but warmth as Ohelmacher-Lonetti finds something positive to say to the very last student struggling to pull on a coat and gloves.

"I see the more positive side coming out of my students, so they want to reach me, 'Mrs. O, look at me, look at me,'" Ohelmacher-Lonetti said.

She is one of several teachers at Winsted Elementary who are incorporating a technique called "The Nurtured Heart Approach"  into their daily teaching.

Initially developed to help children with learning disabilities or behavioral challenges, Winsted's teachers are finding it is applicable in many settings.

"You see a change in the room, and it's like a wave going across the room," said Ohelmacher-Lonetti, "I don't have to put any change in the negative because we all want to be the best we can be."

School psychology intern Stacy Nielsen trained in the technique and brought it to her co-workers at Winsted.  She says "The Nurtured Heart Approach" is not just about telling kids they're doing a good job.

"It's about going in-depth, it's about 'here's who I see you as a great person,'" said Nielsen.

"Maybe for some child you start small," said Nielsen.  "I see you sitting in your chair.  I see you looking at me.  "I like your respect."

"Two seconds later they might not be doing that anymore, but that does not mean they were not doing that in that moment," Nielsen said.

Nielsen is training other teachers at Winsted to use the approach as developed by Howard Glasser.  She has also used the technique with teens attending summer school at a residential treatment center.

"The biggest impact I ever had as a teacher was the one that I used the Nurtured Heart Approach," said Nielsen.  "It's life-changing."

It is changing the atmosphere in Michelle Olson's classroom.  She works with students who have learning disabilities.

"I had a student who basically came in at the beginning of the year very, very frustrated.  Refusing to read, refusing to do matching and sorting kind of activities," Olson said.  "Now he is reading."

Olson said her students are noticing a difference.

"They shared with me the other day how this classroom is different from now to the beginning of the year when we were having to pick up and leave the classroom because of students being so frustrated," said Olson.  "Everyone's learning in here now."

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved.)

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