PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A Phoenix high school teacher is using a unique approach to help students in crisis. Kristina Vasic teaches English at Carl Hayden Community High School in west Phoenix. Every week she invites her students to let her know how they’re feeling by leaving a note for her on a whiteboard with different boxes describing emotions.

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“They put their names on the sticky side of the sticky note and then write either, ‘I want to talk’ or ‘I don’t want to talk,’” says Vasic.

Students scribble words like “good” or “mad” behind the sticky notes. If students want to discuss what’s bothering them, Vasic’s door is always open.

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“Whether it’s relationship stuff or friendship stuff or it’s stuff with immigration and their fears,” says Vasic.

Vasic says she’s seen variations of a mental health board on social media and decided to employ the strategy to understand her students better.

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She may be doing far more good than she realizes. A Secret Service report released this month studied mass shootings on school campuses from 2008 to 2017. The report says most incidents involved schools with physical security measures for lockdowns and resource officers. The findings reveal trusted adults in the school system can be more effective than barriers, cameras, and police. The Secret Service issued a list of recommendations for reducing school violence, including creating and promoting “a culture of safety, respect, trust, and emotional support for students.”

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“I do think that being able to talk about stuff really helps,” says Vasic.

Vasic is in her first year of teaching and still remembers her own struggles in school.

“My senior year, one of my best friends was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” says Vasic. “So, I would just kind of come in questioning what the point was of school and didn’t have the passion to keep going.”

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Not all teachers were helpful, she says.

“Some were understanding, and others were kind of dismissive,” says Vasic.

Vasic believes her simple whiteboard is accomplishing serious long-term goals of helping kids speak up, erasing the stigma of mental illness, and keeping students happy and healthy.

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“I think if we put more of a focus on that that, like, our suicide rates would go down, our bullying would go down,” says Vasic. “They want to be heard. They need to be heard.”

 


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