Friday, January 23, 2009

Poverty simulation for teachers in Des Moines

A poverty simulation was held in the Des Moines, Iowa area to help teachers see the realities of poverty in the community. The simulation focused on what teachers can do to help poor students in their classroom. This only grows in importance as the economy continues to be weak.

From the Des Moines Register, reporter Dave Dolmage shows us the extent of poverty in West Des Moines.

Andréa Boyd, the principal at Phenix Elementary School in West Des Moines, is no stranger to poverty. Located in the Valley Junction area of West Des Moines, more than half the students at Phenix qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

After going through a training course, Boyd wanted to bring the poverty simulation program to her school to help teachers and other administrators understand how poverty affects students, and how teachers can minimize its effects.

"We do it for people to have awareness, but with the economy everyone is aware," Boyd said. "It's a call to action, to see what we can do to help students and families."

Boyd works with Mary Stilwell, the family services coordinator at Phenix, to ensure that the district is doing what it can to help meet the needs of students. Stilwell works to find donations of clothing, and even helps some families find apartments. Boyd said it's easier for family members to talk to Stilwell, rather than speaking to the principal.

"She fulfills a very valuable role, and I think sometimes it's easier for families to go and talk to her," Boyd said of Stilwell.

About to graduate from Iowa State University, Whitney Wilson of West Des Moines is a student teacher who attended the poverty seminar. "It really opened my eyes and helped me see things that I might not have otherwise noticed," Wilson said.

The concept of a family services coordinator at a school was new to us, we wonder if other poor districts have something similar?

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