School leaders present at national conference

Primary school leaders present at national conference

A team from Independence Primary School presented at the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ annual conference on July 11 at National Harbor outside of Washington D.C. 

More than 1,600 educational leaders from all over the United States attended the NAESP’s Pre-K-8 Principals Conference, a national event that provides the strongest unified voice for pre-K-8 school leaders. It is designed to help educators “level up their leadership” through sessions led by expert practitioners and networking with colleagues from across the nation.

T.J. Ebert, IPS principal; Katie Wojno-Demarchi, behavior coordinator; and Brooke Gradert, IPS guidance counselor, presented, “Mental Health for Staff and Students the IPS Way.”

One out of six children ages 2-8 has a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental delay, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This statistic led IPS to implement many exercises and activities to help promote mental health.

“We presented at the state conference in summer 2022 in Columbus, and shared some of the great things we are doing at IPS to support the social and emotional needs of staff and students, especially coming out of COVID,” said Ebert. “After the presentation, the executive director of the NAESP approached us about presenting at the national level. The fact that we get to share with other principals across the United States is very humbling. 

“The things we have done have truly been collaborative with the city, parents, staff and students, [including] the SEL lessons, Mindful Monday videos, Mental Health and Wellness Day, and school culture/climate activities.”

IPS parent Samantha Kennedy attested to the effectiveness of the programs with an example from her six-year-old daughter.

“We were already running late to one of the kids’ many baseball games when I accidentally drove to our home field instead of the away field we were supposed to be at, making me even more frazzled,” said Kennedy. “Our six-year-old daughter instantly said to me, ‘That’s ok mom, everyone makes mistakes. Would you like me to walk you through some breathing exercises that can help?’”

Kennedy said her daughter learned these invaluable tools at the school’s Mental Health and Wellness Day. ∞

Photo (above): Katie Wojno-Demarchi (l), behavior coordinator; Brooke Gradert, IPS guidance counselor; and IPS Principal T.J. Ebert present at the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ annual conference. Photo submitted.