The Rowland Foundation

2020 Rowland Fellow
Stacy Shortle
Rutland High School

Becoming a Trauma-Informed School

Toxic stress brought on by complex trauma impacts the developing brain of a child, which may in turn contribute to academic and behavioral problems by the time a child reaches school age. Findings from a large influential study conducted in Spokane, Washington, revealed that 80% of students experiencing three or more Adverse Childhood Experiences ACES) exhibit one or more academic concerns in the school environment (Blodgett, 2010).

Teachers, school administrators, parents, and others within and beyond the education sector are working to create healthy and supportive school environments that promote the academic, social and emotional/behavioral success of all students, as well as staff, through the application of trauma-informed methods to help create a safe environment in which students feel connected, and ready to learn and in which educators can deliver a curriculum that reaches all students.

Recent data suggest that 19.9% of Vermont children from ages 0-17 experiences two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) that impact their social, emotional and cognitive development (

Rutland High School (RHS) has begun the process of becoming a trauma informed school to help build resilience in its students impacted by ACES so that they can learn with purpose, lead lives of integrity and contribute to society in meaningful ways (RHS Mission Statement). While we are taking steps to gain the knowledge of the impact of ACES on our students, RHS needs to transform its pedagogical culture to become trauma informed, which will evolve through an ongoing learning, evaluation and reflection process that unfold over the course of several years.


A Rowland Fellowship will allow me to learn the critical ingredients of understanding the impact of ACES and toxic stress on student engagement in school. I will then take that knowledge to work with my colleagues and administration to adopt trauma informed practices to support student engagement and learning, as well as self-care for teachers and staff.

With successful implementation of trauma informed practices, RHS will, over the course of three to five years, see a decrease in suspension rates, an increase in overall attendance and academic engagement, an increase in the quality and quantity of alternative pathways for a target group of students who are not successful with the traditional high school schedule, and an overall increase in teacher job satisfaction and self-care.

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