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Email: ndseec.info@k12.nd.us

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Building and Supporting Positive Behavior in Wahpeton

As SEEC staff visit different schools over the course of the year whether it be for specific training needs, district liaison visits, ND Reading Corps Master/Internal coach meetings, Afterschool programming check-ins, etc. we see and hear from all our schools a variety of amazing things happening. Recently a couple staff were down in Wahpeton and came back explaining the tiered approach to behaviors and flexibility based on student need that is happening down there.

We decided to reach out and find out a bit more the specifics of how Wahpeton has built this tiered approach and the teams’ process for student success in this area. We found it all stems from Janet Neumann, Wahpeton Elementary’s Learning Center Teacher.

Janet Neumann moved to Wahpeton in 2008 from Nebraska where she taught 4 th, 5th, and 6th grades for 21 years.

“I learned so much in those years, but what I clearly understood about myself and teaching was that I was drawn to teaching the most difficult kids. I loved the challenge of those that everyone had seemed to given up on. So that is where this begins!”

In 2008 Janet was hired as the Wahpeton Middle School Learning Center teacher. Students struggling with academics, behaviors, home, etc. found their way to the Learning Center and to Janet.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that there was a need for behavior plans to help encourage some of these students to show appropriate behavior. This is where I started to create behavior plans.”

In 2013 Janet accepted the position in the Learning Center in the elementary school, “same needs, same types of kiddos, just younger!” explains Janet.

Janet soon learned that when searching to find the best way to support these students in their journey to finding success it all started with trust. Unless the students felt that she was an advocate for them and had an established relationship with them nothing beyond that was possible.

“Relationships had to be established, trust had to be earned, boundaries and expectations had to be made. Consistency and follow through were a must if the behavior plans were going to work."

When asking Courtney Seiler, SEEC Professional Learning Coordinator, what stood out to her with what Janet and the RTI-B team has built she said,

“They has a tiered approach to behavior, giving kids what they need to be successful. Janet does everything from drop-in behavior coaching for students who unexpectedly need support throughout the day to building and implementing detailed behavior plans for individual students. She carefully tracks data to ensure progress for individuals but also the school. In addition to her supports within the school day, she runs a free after school "program" that enhances her relationships and student success.”

Janet began with simple documentation of all her visits with students in the Learning Center and why they had come, be it academic, or behavior.

“As I observed students making progress at all different speeds, I began to realize how important my mind set was to the success of these students and their behavior plans. I had attended 5 years of Jim Fay’s Love and Logic, Boys Town Training, Champs Training, Nurtured Heart, Why Try and more. None of that mattered if I approached these students with anything other than my belief that all students can learn and act appropriately if given a safe and loving environment.”

Today, Wahpeton’s Elementary School Learning Center continues to support teachers and students social, emotional and academic needs using a tiered system for behaviors. Tier 2 behavior supports include pieces such as calming breaks and activities, to resets, and academic support. At the Tier 3 behavior support level they are working with students with continuous disruptive behaviors for their own learning and the learning of others. These supports include behavior plans and a strong focus on each student’s targeted behaviors.

Wahpeton uses the Schoolwide Information System (SWIS) to record behaviors happening throughout the school and the data is reviewed and discussed at their weekly RTI-B meetings where the team problem solves and develops a plan of support for both the student and staff.

Janet explains how this data provides the team with important information surrounding:

  • Where might they need to provide more support?
  • What time of the day seems to be most difficult?
  • Where are most of the behaviors happening?
  • Where or what should be re-taught as far as expectations?

Through their identified process Wahpeton Elementary has seen a strong decline in office referrals, behaviors are better managed, and students are finding success.

Here’s an example of what this process looks like from initial observance of a potential behavior issue to finalized plans for success targeted to unique student need:

  1. A teacher comes to Janet and explains his/her concerns about a specific student.
  2. Janet brainstorms and problem solves with the counselors (and possibly principal) some strategies that they might try, and also encourage them to complete a behavior sheet where the teacher marks every time the specific behavior occurs. (this piece depends on the level of the behavior & on how many weeks of documentation we decide is appropriate).
  3. If the teacher is still struggling with behaviors, he/she fill out a PST form on the student. The form is then given to the Problem-Solving Team, (which would include all educators that are involved with this student, the principal, the counselor, and myself).
  4. The PST comes together to collaborate, share documentation of the behavior and problem solve and decides if the student needs to receive Tier 2 or Tier 3 support (depending on the intensity of the behavior)
    1. If the team feels that the behavior could benefit from the teaching of social skills, the counselors step in and offer that teaching through small group or individual instruction.
    2. If a behavior plan is what seems to be our next step, Janet creates one based on all of the information provided by the teacher including targeted behaviors (never more than 3), break times for incentives, length of breaks, etc.
      1. After the behavior plan is complete the parents are called and, together, they walk through the behavior plan.
  5. After 2 weeks, Janet re-visits the behavior plan data, goes back to the teacher, and evaluates to see if changes need to be made.
    1. Janet uses a PBIS behavior tracking form to record the behaviors from the behavior plans providing her the ability to see where success is being made and where additional support is still needed.
    2. Data is also shared with the RTI-B team consisting of the principal, counselors, school psych and Janet. Together the team works to provide the needed support according to the plan.
  6. Janet now shares this information with the parents asking for their input and ideas.
  7. All data is shared with the teachers and parents 3 times each year including the student’s progress as well as the areas still needing improvement. This information may be shared more often if needed.
“We are very fortunate at Wahpeton Elementary to have such a strong team supporting our students. Through strong communication, positive mind set, and the willingness to continue to change and improve, our students will continue their journeys finding success, one step at a time,” shared Janet.
Courtney provided one last gleaming insight to Janet and her team’s work, Janet’s dedication and passion is what makes it all so successful. Having the "right" person in this position makes all the difference. Behavior intervention is difficult and needs to operate this way to be successful.”

Here’s to you all down in Wahpeton for the great work you're doing to provide a path to success in all facets of our student’s lives: academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally.

If you want to be highlighted or know someone SEEC should reach out to, please email ndseec.info@k12.nd.us.