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(Online) Tending to the Heart Behind the Mask: Support for Teachers During COVID-19

August 13, 2020 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

| Free


Solid heart drawn in white chalk on black chalkboardWhen COVID-19 and shelter-in-place mandates first appeared, teachers like you rose to the challenge, finding creative ways to support, educate and comfort your students from a distance. (Thank you!) But you may have experienced stress and trauma, too, worrying about the safety and well-being of your students as well as your own families and communities. As you prepare to return to the classroom and your students this fall, you may have been provided masks, hand-sanitizer, and cleaning supplies. But how will you tend to your heart? 

This online workshop offers an opportunity to network with other teachers, develop self-care practices, and prepare for the challenges and rewards of returning to teaching during this challenging time. Implementing practices of self-care, empathy, trauma-informed teaching and authentically connecting with our selves and others are imperative to our ability to navigate and function during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Six breakout sessions by experts in their fields are offered during this online workshop—descriptions are below. Before, during and after the breakout sessions, there will be ample opportunity for discussion and interaction with teachers and session facilitators.


Zoom (Link will be made available to participants before the program starts.)



August 13, 2020  1-3 p.m. EST



This program is free for all participants.



  • Teachers and educators
  • School administrators
  • Ed techs
  • School counselors
  • Childcare providers



  • Learn how to implement self-care strategies and prevent burnout 
  • Increase your trauma-informed teaching skills
  • Build community and support systems by connecting with other teachers



2 contact hours/0.2 CEUs



  • Leah Boyd – Clarity Services
  • Sherry Brown – UMaine College of Education
  • Alison Mitchell – UMaine School of Social Work
  • Brittney Raye – Director of TREE at Rural Vitality Lab
  • Gina Simms – Author, consultant, and retired teacher
  • Peggy Smith – Co-founder of the Maine Nonviolent Communication Network


All participants are invited to sign up for one breakout session. Participants are asked to note their first, second and third choices in their registration. We’ll do our best to honor your preferences and appreciate your flexibility.

Teachers Supporting Teachers
Facilitator: Leah Boyd

In these times it’s easy to feel isolated as we attempt to navigate the unknown and the challenges it entails. This is always true during times of uncertainty, and especially so amidst sheltering in place and distancing! In this session, teachers and support staff will explore the challenges ahead and creative ways to support each other.

Participants will be invited to discuss the following questions:

  • As you think about the coming school year, what concerns you most?
  • What ways can you imagine giving support to and receiving support from your colleagues in the coming year? How would that look?
  • Given your experience from March – June 2020, did you notice some things that really helped/worked well, both on a personal level and a professional level, that you would like to share with your colleagues?

Leah Boyd is a certified trainer with the International Center for Nonviolent Communication and holds a BS in Education. She is a professional communication skills trainer, group facilitator and mediator. With a diverse background including special education, human resources and professional music, Leah brings wide personal experience to her work. In addition to serving private clients, Leah has served as a mediator for the Maine Department of Education as well as the Maine District Court System in Family Matters cases. She has also served on the Board of Governors for the Maine Association of Mediators. Leah enjoys offering facilitation and training for a wide range of groups and organizations including public schools, colleges, and a variety of associations, boards and workplaces. To learn more about Leah, please visit:

Teachers and the Cost of Caring
Facilitator: Sherry Brown

With the anxiety and stress of almost daily shifting expectations and having to grapple with new ways to teach, it has never been more important for teachers to protect themselves against compassion fatigue and burnout. In this session, we will discuss the factors that contribute to teacher burnout and offer some ideas of how to build resilience in these trying times.

Sherry Pineau Brown is currently a PhD candidate in education at the University of Maine. A veteran high school English teacher, she served as founder and chair of a trauma-sensitive steering committee at Waterville Senior High School where she is still employed. She has taught high school English for over sixteen years in both Maine and Colorado. She has also worked as the Director of First Year Initiatives at Thomas College and as an adjunct instructor at the University of Maine, Kennebec Valley Community College and Thomas College.

Self-Care for Teachers: You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup
Facilitator: Sherry Mitchell

Self-care is about intentionally practicing the things that sustain you. It can be an event, like eating chocolate while soaking in a candle-lit bubble bath, yet it’s also a process of identifying and practicing self-nurturing (specifics will differ by the individual). In this session, we will explore the concept of sustaining ourselves professionally for the “long haul.”  Participants will have opportunities to share their stressors and anxieties about the coming academic year.  Session moderator Alison Mitchell will frame the discussion of self-care around themes that emerge, promoting shared development of strategies for coping (and thriving!) in the current professional environment.

Alison Mitchell, PhD, LCSW, earned her PhD from the Smith College School for Social Work.  Her research focuses on supporting opioid-exposed children and families, particularly those living in rural areas. Dr. Mitchell combines practical experience with research expertise, measuring the impact of service provision for clients and staff alike, using findings to guide future programming or undertakings for agencies and research partners.  She volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocates for children (CASA) guardian ad litem for children in protection cases, and was formerly a K-12 educator and administrator. She currently serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Maine School of Social Work and the Smith College School for Social Work, and is a mental health practitioner in private practice in Bangor.

Moving Stories for Students and Teachers
Facilitator: Brittany Ray

Created and developed by Dr. Sue Carroll Duffy, the Moving Stories Method is an intermodal expressive arts method that integrates story, sandtray and play therapy. Therapeutic stories are told with the aid of a Moving Stories kit and a sand tray as the “theater.” Moving Stories kits are baskets or decorated boxes that contain miniatures/symbols that are used to tell the story. Individual clients, families, groups or classes from pre-school age to old age are then invited to reflect upon the stories followed by an invitation to respond in their own creative way. TREE invites you to explore moving stories as a teacher and perhaps consider how this tool can be used to meet the social and emotional needs of your students. 

Participants will need a simple set of watercolor paints and paper. Other materials will be suggested closer to the training.

Brittany Ray was born and raised in Washington County. She attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine. After graduation, she returned to Washington County to pursue her passion for education. She spent the next 13 years teaching high school English and ten years as a school counselor, before becoming the director of Cobscook TREE. Her experiences in the classroom and in school counseling fueled her passion for building relationships and developing strategies to mitigate trauma-related barriers for her students. Her goal of supporting schools and communities which are poverty, trauma, and equity-informed continues today. Brittany resides in Milbridge, Maine with her husband, Ron Smith. Together they have four children.

Supporting Elementary School Students’ Emotions While Teaching
Facilitator: Gina Simm

How can you support your students’ emotions while teaching at the same time? In this breakout session, participants will explore this question through empathetic process based on nonviolent communication principles. Participants will also learn tools for helping younger students express their emotions in difficult situations. It’s easy for teachers to feel overwhelmed when students are processing trauma in the classroom. If we have a system to refer to when these challenges come up, we can relax. Learn practical systems to maintain the heart-to-heart connections that support children’s ability to self-regulate and improve their emotional intelligence.

Gina Simm has taught in early childhood education for over 30 years. Her background in Montessori education and children’s theater launched her into the world of public schools where she spent most of her career as a first-grade teacher (including a year spent teaching English in China). Simm worked closely with Miki Kashtan, a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication. Simm’s knowledge of Nonviolent Communication has transformed her classroom into a place where systems of the heart create a child-centered environment for moving through conflict. Simm lives in the Pioneer Valley Cohousing Community in Amherst, Massachusetts. To learn more, visit

Empathy for Self and Others
Facilitator: Peggy Smith

A bit of neuroscience and a cup of empathy mixed with a sprinkle of mindfulness: a recipe for calming our nerves during those challenging teaching experiences. This session will combine cognitive learning with small group practice. Come feel something energizing, powerful and supportive.

Peggy Smith holds a master’s degree in literacy and language arts from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a certified trainer with the International Center for Nonviolent Communication with over four decades of teaching experience. A co-founder of the Maine Nonviolent Communication Network, Smith is at the forefront of bringing empathic thinking and communicating to midcoast Maine. Since 1991, Smith has studied with Zen teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh and is a dharma teacher within his tradition. Smith lives in Lincolnville, Maine and greets the day watching the sunrise over Islesboro. To learn more about Peggy Smith, visit


60 total, 10 in each breakout session



  • University of Maine Hutchinson Center
  • University of Maine Division of Lifelong Learning
  • University of Maine College of Education
  • University of Maine School of Social Work
  • TREE (Transforming Rural Experiences in Education) Program – Maine Rural Vitality Lab
  • Clarity Services
  • Maine Bureau of Labor Education
  • UMaine Online
  • University of Maine Conferences and Institutes

For more information or to request an accommodation contact Michelle Patten, Conference and Professional Development Coordinator,; 207.338.8002.