In the Spring of 2021, the BrainAhead team had the pleasure of working with Kerri Christie, an educator in Qualicum, British Columbia, on the very first roll-out of the BrainAhead program. Kerri spearheaded the pilot of BrainAhead within School District 69, situated on east Vancouver Island. The district serves a population of approximately four thousand students spread across eight elementary schools, two secondary schools, one French Immersion school and a Distributed Learning program.
About the Case Study
Qualicum focuses on being an equity-based, trauma-informed, learner-focused district and engaged with BrainAhead in search for quality resources on how the brain works from the bottom up. By learning about and using clinically-based, neurologically focused practices, the district saw the connection between brain activation and academic & social-emotional success.
7 teachers and their classes participated in the Qualicum Case Study.
5 out of 7 teachers reported using BrainAhead daily, or nearly every day.
100% noticed positive changes in their classroom.
100% were satisfied with the support they received from BrainAhead, reporting that questions and concerns were addressed promptly and thoroughly.
Get to Know Kerri Christie
Q: Could you provide a brief introduction of yourself and your role in SD69?
KC: For the past two years, I have been working as the emotional learning support teacher in our district. That means that I’m supporting teachers in implementing trauma-informed practice and social-emotional learning in their classrooms. Our district’s strategic priority was social-emotional learning and “how can we better support our students?”.
Q: What challenges have you seen students and teachers experiencing in the classroom?
KC: Students are facing an increase in mental health issues - anxiety and depression are big ones. Most recently, with the pandemic, we are seeing counsellors whose loads are just more than they can handle. Younger and younger, we’re starting to see these issues pop up. Also an increase in some of these stress response behaviors, the “acting out”, and just teachers not really sure how to help the students when they’re in these fight-or-flight situations.
The BrainAhead Pilot
Q: What sparked your interest in piloting BrainAhead in School District 69?
KC: What teachers were looking for was something they could easily implement into their classrooms, and this program definitely had that. But more importantly, it had the “why” behind it. So often teachers just throw something at kids and hope it sticks, but this program really - I was so impressed with the onboarding session we did, the information we were given, and even some of the videos that just gave kids little tips and tricks as they were going along as to why it helped them, was really impressive.
Q: Was there anything that you learned from the onboarding session that you didn’t know before?
KC: The explanations of functional neurology were so fascinating, and the different parts of the brain that connect and how different movements help develop those areas further. I think one of the more shocking things was some of the reasons why we’re seeing the trends we are. When they talked about the increase in C-sections and the infant props we’re using, it was a bit of a shock that at such an early age this developmental skill of movement was actually being a little bit hampered and it was being affected in the classroom.
Q: Tell us about your experience helping teachers implement the resource, was it easier or harder than you expected?
KC: It was definitely easier than expected. When I was talking to teachers, they were pumped about it everyday, they couldn’t wait for that part of their day, their kids couldn’t wait for that part of their day and it seemed like there were very few questions coming through. The onboarding session was so great that they had all the information they needed about what to look for, how to help the kids. Everyone just took it and ran with it, so it was awesome.
Q: In your words, how does this program, a brain-activation program, compare to SEL-focused programs?
KC: What’s different, and what I love the most, was that it was the targeted sequential practices the kids were doing that helped each part of their brain develop in order to then, I guess, unlock or access the next part of the brain that might need a bit of support or development. It really worked from that bottom-up model that the neurosequential model also talks about. It wasn’t just throwing a lot of things at them all at once, it was practice, practice, practice, and then that lead to the next skill, and that lead to the next once. So I thought that was amazing.
Q: Is this program something that you would recommend to teachers? If yes, what would you say to them to explain the program and why they should use it?
KC: Absolutely! It helps students access that cortex that we talked about earlier where all the learning, thinking and reasoning happens. If they can’t access that part of the brain, then they’re not going to be able to focus, pay attention and do all the things they need to do in school. So this program definitely helps strengthen those pathways. I think the self-awareness and the improvement in those areas, and the calmness it brought to classrooms was immeasurable; it was so wonderful.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to new teachers or that you wish you knew when you first became an educator?
KC: I think it would be that behavior we typically describe as “out-of-control behavior” is actually behavior that is out of their control. That often, it’s in response to a threat or something they deem to be unsafe, and their brainstem and midbrain is taking over and they can’t help their response to that. I think that loving them and caring for them and developing that relationship is key. It will change when they have that love and support, and they’re not just sent to the office or sent out of class, that they need that one-on-one loving supportive relationship.
IF YOUR SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT ARE INTERESTED IN TRYING THE BRAINAHEAD PROGRAM, SEND US AN EMAIL AT SUPPORT@BRAINAHEAD.NET OR SIGN UP FOR A FREE 30-DAY TRIAL HERE!