Highlight Series, featuring David Turnham Educational Center’s initiative to reach all learners

Story and Photos by Hope Davis

Spencer County Online continues a new series. All 11 county schools will be featured on a rotating basis. Our hope is to share a positive event or person, honing in on the great things happening in education, especially because education is a powerful and sometimes controversial topic in today’s society. Some of the schools do not always receive a lot of media coverage and this is a chance to shine a light and show off the great things going on within their walls. Spencer County Online would like to give you a virtual tour through the doors of Spencer County schools to see what your kids are up to and what they are learning. We really hope you enjoy this series, so with that, let the third highlight begin!

First, if you have not read our first and second highlights about Heritage Hills’ Todd Wilkerson and Luce Elementary’s Maggie Caudill but you would like to, here is the links for those https://spencercountyonline.com/2020/01/20/highlight-series-featuring-heritage-hills-high-schools-todd-wilkerson-and-s2c/

https://spencercountyonline.com/2020/02/03/highlight-series-featuring-luce-elementary-schools-head-chef-maggie-caudill/

The staff at David Turnham Elementaty makes every effort to reach all learners, working hard to make sure all students’ needs are met. They embrace the idea that all students learn in different ways. Some students need to be moving to absorb the lessons, others need to work with their hands, while others don’t need either of those things. 

All students are different, and David Turnham teachers are working to celebrate and encourage students to do what they must to be the best learners they possibly can be. DT is all about building on any success they get from their students. Whether it’s a kicking band on their desk as shown below by third grader Gunnar Foltz, bouncing on an exercise ball during class demonstrated by Mrs. Balbach’s fourth grade class and third grader Lydia From or sitting in a different seat (many classes have flexible seating) (photo), there are so many different learning methods for students — it just depends on the individual student. David Turnham has a safe place in each classroom. The whole point of this is to help all students become successful learners. 

Every day teachers provide brain boosts for their students in the afternoon, which teachers have reported they feel have helped their school and their learners stay successful. Brain boosts are a program that allows students to stand up for a quick minute or two and just get their wiggles out while getting their brains back on task and where they need to be. There are stations in the hallway offering various activities students can complete each morning, and then again in the afternoon in specific classes.

David Turnham provides different rooms for students, and the school is working towards finishing a sensory room for kids who have more needs than others. The rooms are there to give them the sensory input they need. These learning aids are for any child who needs them, while brain boosts are for all students.

Principal Kelsey Henrickson keeps fidgets in her office for students if she feels they are nervous, and often times when they see her playing with a fidget toy, she reports that it helps them relax. Faculty members teach the kids a lot about their brains, and why they act the way they do due to different parts of the brain. 

A collective of teachers and parents came together to get this program moving. The special education teachers are great about being proactive and helping other teachers if they have something they feel would work for certain students learning needs. Henrickson explains how David Turnham is a conscious discipline-driven school. The school uses principles from the book Conscious Discipline, which is a school of thought regarding the way adults relate to kids. How adults talk to children is the basis of this initiative. “Teachers and social workers are constantly bringing ideas all the time. They are just very interested in meeting the needs of the students,” shares Henrickson. “The Brain Boosts in the afternoon, Fitness Fridays, and the fitness trail (shown below) all came from an upgrade grant that [David Turnham] had and currently still have, which is delegated and run by a group of teachers.”

David Turnham has always worked to help their students find the best way for them to learn. The big push really started about three years ago. “It’s really been a learning process for everyone, taking what works and building on it, and then taking what doesn’t work and trying new things,” Henrickson says. “It’s all about trying to create a better environment for everyone.”

Author’s note: I attended David Turnham many years ago, and remember when a program called “Minds in Motion” was introduced to us; the school has built off that program with the grant they received.

I just want to say thank you David Turnham for seeing different learning styles as an opportunity and not a quality that hinders learning. Thank your for understanding that times change and how education and the process of educating is not meant to be the same for everyone, and just because the classroom is full of wiggly worms, doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of learning while they move. It’s because of schools like yours that can show other schools how to begin to move towards helping their students become more successful in the classroom and in their everyday lives as they grow and mature. Thank you David Turnham for reaching for the Stars.

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