Teacher Spotlight: Brooke Mischler

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Many people become teachers so that they can not only teach students basic learning skills, but also teach them behavioral skills and improve the world as well. This is no exception for Brooke Mischler. Brooke is an elementary life skills teacher at Somerset Area School District in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Her passion for teaching comes from the love of watching her students grow. 

Maple Ridge Elementary School, where Brooke teaches, has a program to show the importance of positive behavior. The program highlights positive characteristics and rewards students for showing them. Inside Brooke’s classroom is a bucket with the purpose of being filled with poufs. It gets filled with poufs when kindness is seen in the classroom. Once the bucket is full, the classroom has a pizza party to reward the students for their actions.

The students are also taught social and emotional lessons through literature. It’s not a curriculum, but rather literature-based lessons with examples.

“I try very hard to practice what I preach,” Brooke said about how she lives by example. Even when she is having a bad day, she tries to be upbeat to exemplify the characteristics that she teaches to her students.

“Teachers must be models of kindness, especially at elementary level. Teach kindness explicitly. It takes a community of examples to make it a part of their being. It starts with us,” Brooke said.

However, she did add that teaching kindness to children should happen everywhere they go.

As for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and online teaching, Brooke had to adjust the ways she communicated with parents and incorporate new technology into her teaching. She began writing her students letters, which is something she traditionally wouldn’t do since she sees them almost daily in normal circumstances. 

The Somerset Area School District used instructional packets with YouTube videos. With the use of bi-weekly Zoom calls, the teachers were reading books, teaching skills, and generally trying to keep their students connected.

When she’s not teaching, Brooke enjoys hiking, camping, group meditation, and attending concerts.

Rainy Day Blues: Helping Kids Manage Their Feelings

Weathering the April showers isn’t always easy, even with the promise of the beautiful flowers they’ll bring. In this ever-changing world, it isn’t enough to rely on personal experiences when helping today’s youth manage their emotions. To truly help the kids you care about, you’ll need to see things as they do and develop an understanding of the fast-paced, interactive, and sometimes invasive nature of the universe they live in. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is like one big, rainy day. Social distancing keeps them away from their friends and the outlets they find away from home, though for children and teens today, engagement with the outside world never really ends. They are constantly connected with their friends, peers, and in some cases, their bullies. There is no “taking a break” from social interaction. It follows them everywhere they go, so long as there is a phone in their pocket.

Simply cutting off access to their devices will do little more than build resentment and distrust between you and your child, but if that’s the case, how is one supposed to help? 

According to kidshelpline.com, there are a number of ways to help your child learn how to express and cope with their emotions, but the first step is helping them identify their feelings. 

“Kids who are able to identify, understand, express and manage a wide range of feelings experience long term benefits to their mental health and wellbeing.”

Successfully identifying and expressing emotions helps children develop important social skills and leads to better performance in school, relationships, and mental wellbeing. It is imperative that children feel that they can talk to you about what they are feeling, as they may not always have the right words to describe their emotions. Figuring it out together can help them recognize the feeling in the future. 

Once they have a handle on their feelings, there are a variety of coping strategies you can help them implement to deal with their emotions. Creative outlets such as drawing, painting, or journaling are often recommended as a way to encourage self-expression. Keeping a diary or journal is an excellent way for children to vent their feelings in a way that feels safe and personal. Drawing and painting allow children to portray their thoughts and concentrate on a project, which promotes creativity, focus, and sometimes, relaxation. 

Our Onspire program can also serve as a cure to those rainy-day blues. It gives parents access to supplemental content to fill their time while reinforcing literacy skills and social-emotional learning. Children have an outlet to invest their time and energy in while also reaping educational benefits.

Now that the weather is warming up, perhaps your child would like to go outside and play. Sports are another highly recommended activity for children to manage their emotions. Rigorous physical activity promotes the production of endorphins, and is a great way to “blow off steam.” 

An article from harmonylearning.com said, “At this time, it’s good for children to have existing creative outlets that they’re comfortable and familiar with.  There will be times when they seek solace in their artwork, dance, or music as a means of dealing with their problems.”

Establishing effective, healthy coping mechanisms in children will provide them with sources of comfort and clarity that last a lifetime. While building trust between yourself and your child is a key component in getting them to be more open with their feelings, it is also beneficial for them to find an outlet they can turn to.  A combination of conversation and independent coping will help the kids you care about keep their cool in today’s nonstop world.

If you have any questions on building these skills in children, please do not hesitate to reach out. Through our Onspire software, both parents and teachers can utilize pre-made literacy-based social and emotional development courses or develop your own. Learn more and request a free trial here: https://onspirelearning.hibster.com.

Teacher Spotlight: Renee Saylor

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During this stressful time for many teachers, we want to show our appreciation for them. Last month, we showcased a teacher on Facebook, and we want to dedicate a blog post to her, too.

Meet Renee Saylor, a 12th grade teacher at North Star High School in Boswell, Pennsylvania. Renee is passionate about teaching because of the relationships she can develop with her students. Since she teaches seniors, she enjoys giving them the skills and knowledge to help prepare them for the world. Renee tries to relate many of her lessons to current events and adjusts her curriculum to what they want to know.

She also incorporates team-building activities and encourages her students to make eye contact and shake hands with their partner. When her students are reviewing each other’s writing, they use a “1 glow-up, 1 grow-up” system, which means they’ll say one thing they like about the piece and one thing that needs improvement.

During a unit she had taught on relationships, she found an article that said today’s teens are thought to be the loneliest generation yet. She asked them to write their thoughts on it and share it with the class. She wanted everyone to know that we all get lonely sometimes, so it’s important to remember that before you think. She could tell many of them were getting emotional on the topic and self-reflecting.

At the back of Renee’s classroom, she has a “Senior Brag Board.” Its purpose is for her students to shout each other out. Renee says all kinds of encouragement and praise are on the board: from Fortnite wins, to college acceptances and big-game scores.

One of the biggest ways Renee tries to relate and empathize with her students is by being as authentic as possible. She holds one-on-one conferences with her students to keep up with their lives and see if they’re anything going on. She wants her students to know that teachers are more than just figure-heads at the front of the room; they’re real people, too. She apologizes when she makes mistakes and participates in writing activities and shares what she wrote. This is how she tries to lead by example.

When Renee isn’t teaching, she enjoys exercising, crossfit, and teaching yoga.

How Teaching Inclusivity Can Help Children

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In recent years, the importance of inclusivity has been showcased in our media via television, movies, and more. More people are realizing how important it is to include all types of people in all aspects of life.

We may not realize it, but inclusivity matters even in early childhood. Think of the trope in movies where a student is left out of games at recess, or has nowhere to sit at lunch. While movies often use fiction and fantasy to make themselves more entertaining, that’s one trope that is unfortunately true.

When a student is excluded by their peers, this is know as relational aggression (or social bullying). Many parents may not treat this form of bullying as seriously as it needs to be treated. It seems as if the solution is simple: just find someone else to talk to. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way.

Social bullying is something that children can quickly internalize and start to blame themselves for. If the negative feelings from social bullying aren’t worked through, children could start to develop feelings of self-hatred and bitterness towards others, which could result in dangerous consequences.

So what can be done to prevent social bullying? In this blog post, we’ll be discussing how parents can help teach their children to include others and make everyone they meet feel welcome and loved

Promote individuality in kids and teens

Not only do you want to encourage your kids and teenagers to be an individual themselves, but you also want to encourage them to accept individuality in other people. When children recognize that everyone has their quirks and values, they’ll be more accepting of others and maybe even encourage other kids to be themselves.

Examine your own behavior

It’s common knowledge that kids learn from what they see around them. This is why it’s so important to make sure that you’re also behaving appropriately in front of them. Think about your own actions towards others in front of children. Are you setting a good example for them?

Encourage your kids to reach out to others and have a diverse group

When you’re young, it can be easy to be caught up in your one singular set of friends. Encourage your children to reach out to anyone who seems like they need support. Do they see a peer doing things alone often? Suggest to your kids that they should check in and see if an isolated person is okay.

Another good thing to encourage in your children is to befriend others who are different from them. When you have more diversity and differences in a group, it’s more likely for them to be accepting of others.

Teach your children boundaries

While including others is important, it’s also important that your children are maintaining healthy relationships with others. Make sure to teach them that it’s okay to let someone go if they’re toxic or making them feel uncomfortable. They should also know that someone else’s mean behavior does not mean they should reciprocate. Discourage jokes that may come off as “too far” or inappropriate. They should know about respecting others, but also making sure they’re respected themselves.

Communicate and empathize

Teaching your children about communication and empathy may be one of the biggest tips to take from. When children know how important it is to communicate, they will be more likely to speak up for themselves and others.

Kindness is infectious; one kind act can lead someone else to commit their own kind act.


We’re hoping that steps like these can help children become more empathetic, kind, and understanding towards others. Bullying has been around for a long time, and we’re hoping someday it can be almost entirely eliminated.

Do you have any advise on teaching children about inclusivity? How do you prevent social bullying with your family? We’d love to hear from you.

HIBster is helping Pennsylvania combat bullying

Pennsylvania state representative (D-Cambria) Frank Burns is serious about confronting bullying.

As part of a bold plan to reduce harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents, he’s tapped HIBster to help school districts address the issue.

Penn Cambria School District will serve as the first district to pilot HIBster under Burns’ redoubled efforts.

“Penn Cambria School District is honored to have this opportunity to partner with Representative Burns and HIBster to monitor, track and identify acts of bullying districtwide and make our Penn Cambria community safer for all students,” Penn Cambria Superintendent William Marshall said.

Burns’ aggressive approach includes the introduction of an Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights — which will more clearly define a bullying incident — as well as possible fines and community service for the parents of bullies.

Educational Development Software’s Director of Education Jim Budzilek sat down with WJAC news to discuss HIBster’s effectiveness in New Jersey and how it will translate to Pennsylvania. (Watch the video here)

“What is started off with, New Jersey has a law that all schools have to record incidents and bullying from administration all the way up to the school board,” Budzilek said. “That’s not yet in Pennsylvania. However, we believe with the success we’ve had with HIBster in New Jersey that we need to get this tool to schools in Pennsylvania.”

Budzilek said the program allows victims or witnesses of bullying to anonymously submit a report that will work its way through the school’s administration to the superintendent. “There was one school district, they had a 50 percent drop in two years of incidents of bullying,” Budzilek said.

HIBster will make it much easier to report — even anonymously — suspected instances of bullying. And once the incident is reported, the district is able to track, monitor and act on those reports in a much more coordinated way.

Marshall spoke highly of HIBster to the Altoona Mirror.

“We have five buildings. In the past, none of that discipline information carried over from year to year and from building to building. Now for example, when all fourth-graders move to the middle school, their discipline information carries over,” he said.

Marshall foresees the reports generated by the program will help eliminate the “he-said, she-said” that makes bullying murky.

“We can really identify students who are victims and actors and hotspots where bullying happens,” he said. “The tough thing with bullying is bullies are good at hiding it. But if we have a report showing a student is accused three times in semester, that is a good indication, and the student is aware that we are aware of it.”