Dr. Haley Woodside-Jiron has dedicated her 17-year career at UVM to helping children access their full potential, examining the extent to which stress and trauma affect a child’s ability to learn.
“It is an equity issue to me,” says Woodside-Jiron, Associate Professor in the College of Education and Social Services (CESS). “Trends point to children coming from poverty, abuse, neglect, and trauma—those are the kids that struggle the most. We can have the best plans in the world for our kids and our classrooms. We can have the best lesson plans and the most polished teachers coming out of our programs, but if we don’t address the various social and emotional needs of our children… then it’s all for naught.”
Her current research reflects this drive to bring educators, families, healthcare and social service providers together, synergizing their efforts to help meet the needs of the whole child, and seeking pathways to allow children to get down to the business of learning.
For the past two years, Woodside-Jiron has collaborated with Dr. Jessica Strolin-Goltzman, a full professor in the College of Education and Social Services, and Jennifer Jorgenson, LICSW of the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership. Together, they developed The Academy for Trauma Informed Practice, a hybrid course sequence offered by the UVM Department of Education in collaboration with the Child Welfare Training Partnership and the Vermont Department for Children and Families.
Through its year-long program, the academy serves to increase the number of professionals across child welfare, mental health, and education systems who enter the field equipped to effectively support the strengths and complex needs of children, youth, and families who have been adversely touched by trauma. Some of the results and findings of their work with the Trauma Academy will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Public Child Welfare in 2019.
Woodside-Jiron is also working with Jesse Suter, Executive Director of UVM’s Center for Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI). Dr. Suter is Co-Principal Investigator on an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant focused on students with emotional and behavioral challenges. Woodside-Jiron is involved in the portion of the grant used to examine self-efficacy and self-determination in learning and success.
“When you live with trauma, and chronic stress, the message you tend to get from the world is that you don’t have a lot of control, so that self-efficacy piece is something that we really need to think about as teachers and others in the helping professions. How do we help those kids who have experienced tough stuff?”
Currently looking at their preliminary findings, an article is slated for publication in the upcoming special issue of Forum for International Research and Education, “Beyond Access and Barriers: Inclusive Education and Systems Change.”
Woodside-Jiron’s research also includes an interdisciplinary study of mindfulness and self-regulation in one high poverty, ethnically diverse elementary school in Vermont, along with fellow CESS faculty members Kelly Clark/Keefe, Shana Haines, Katie Shepherd, Alan Tinkler, and Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin. Their 2015-2016 study, published in the spring 2017 issue of LEARNing Landscapes, examined how the integration of mindfulness practices into classrooms made an impact on the lives and learning abilities of students. Participants indicated how increased self-awareness affected students’ (and teachers’) ability to see the connection between personal health, well-being, intellectual acumen, and anxiety management, as well as having had a positive effect on inter- and intrapersonal skills.
Woodside-Jiron's collaborations also extend beyond her CESS partners.
She conducted collaborative research with the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) through the help of a combined $57,000 grant sponsored by CNHS, CDCI, and UVM’s Neuroscience, Behavior and Health TRI (Transdisciplinary Research Initiative). From 2012-2015, this study involved overseeing a parent-training approach to improving the learning success of students with ADHD or ASD.
In 2014, she received a $33,000 collaborative REACH grant to study neuroscience in education with faculty from the College of Medicine.
Additionally, Woodside-Jiron collaborated with Alice Schermerhorn, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Science in UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences through the Office of the Vice President of Research’s FAN (Faculty Action Network) initiative in 2015. Schermerhorn’s work examining the challenges of children experiencing family conflict – combined with Woodside-Jiron’s research examining the implications of social and emotional learning challenges of children experiencing stress – align well with her previous work on mindfulness practices, self-efficacy and self-determination, and how educators can build those into their pedagogy as classroom teachers, providing optimal challenge levels for students to excel.
Woodside-Jiron presented a talk on this work at the International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology in London in 2015. This conference in particular is “a home” for her. She presents there regularly, building her presence as an international scholar.
This international work also led her to the University of Edinburgh, UK, in efforts to develop a global lens for pulling services together to improve communication between systems of support for at-risk youth. She presented this work at the World Education Research Association in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2014.
In what Woodside-Jiron refers to as the “climax of [her] career,” she was invited to present her research on improving self-efficacy through trauma-informed instruction at the Oxford International Roundtable Symposium in July 2018. “That was a real thrill,” she says. “It does my heart good to know that my work is being picked up on an international level.”
Nationally, in 2014, Woodside-Jiron was selected as UVM’s Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Fellow, a year-long professional development experience in Boston shaping women leaders in higher education. She was also elected as the chair of the American Educational Research Association’s Social, Emotional Learning SIG (Special Interest Group) in 2015 – an esteemed organization with international reach.
But her fanbase is firmly rooted at UVM as well. Woodside-Jiron is the recipient of multiple accolades for her work as an educator, including the Outstanding Faculty Award from Alpha Chi Omega in 2016, in recognition of her valuable contribution to students of UVM. “I love the students, I really do,” she says passionately. “I don’t look out into my classes and see college kids… I see tomorrow’s teachers.”
“Everything in my career has been focused on the health and well-being of children so that they’re ready to learn and have the best opportunities for success,” says Woodside-Jiron.
“I’m dedicated to making sure that our teacher education programs and our college take that approach and that we are, indeed, a systems-oriented and interconnected college. I’m really proud to work with my colleagues. We have an amazing faculty across our college, and we are all thoroughly dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the people we work with. I sleep well at night knowing that I’m a part of that.”