Classrooms are full of complicated relationships, with high-stakes interactions occurring daily. Teaching is one of the most important and challenging professions in society. It comes with the constant struggle to understand and mentor students moved by unique needs, desires, and sometimes secret traumas. Understanding the ‘Why’ of these problems and what to do about them requires specialized qualifications, insight, and tools. Luckily, some experts can help. Heidy LaFleur is one of those experts. Her presentations, webinars, and consulting services give schools, teachers, staff, and administrators a lot to think about. More importantly, it gives them the tools to start making positive changes immediately.
“Heidy with a Why,” is her tagline, and it’s her goal. She spent more than two decades contending with all the questions and struggles of public education, first as a teacher, then as an administrator, and also as a parent. Heidy found herself grappling with guilt, doubt, disappointment, and severe sadness after the unthinkable happened in school with the most precious thing in a mother’s world: her child. Refocusing on the ‘Why’ at the core of education, Heidy transformed into a different kind of professional. Now, she’s an educator of educators, and the entire school system is her colleague and student.
This all comes out in the keynote she gives at the beginning of every presentation, “Soaring Balloons and Heavy Shackles: Helping the Most Challenged Kids Soar.” Heidy has worked with all kinds of misunderstood children during her career and continues to be an advocate for their needs. She argues that school conflict and trauma come from a lack of understanding and believes real change can begin on a classroom-to-classroom, student-to-student level. Educators and professionals need new perspectives and proper tools.
That’s where “The Social Emotional Alphabet” comes in. This presentation started with 26 practical lessons, A to Z, but as Heidy kept improving, it grew closer to 50. These are strategies for understanding student behavior, recognizing and addressing trauma, and being a calming, positive influence. It also includes resources to help teams self-reflect on their behavior and ensure that personal and campus-wide detention policies are about consequences instead of just punishment.
One resource under H is the “Hexagon of Hope,” which allows the opportunity to celebrate their stories and assist the child’s teachers to better understand their behavior, and teachers to celebrate things in a child’s life that positively impact their behavior and academics. Another, “Tell Them Your Story,” helps educators understand their core values, their why, and what inspires them, with the goal of better understanding themselves and their actions.
Heidy’s been speaking at the kinds of schools she used to work at, making real connections through authentic understanding. She’s been invited to return, giving educators improved resources year after year. Wanting to make as much of a difference as possible, Heidy has offered to create tailored material for schools’ specific needs. She’s even designed special sessions for Education Support Personnel professionals like nurses, bus drivers, secretaries, lunch staff and paraprofessionals. Heidy knows better than anyone how complicated schools are, and she wants to offer resources to help from every angle.
She also has a unique understanding of the stakes of education. Heidy has seen things go right and wrong, professionally and as a mother. She’s not just there to work when she takes the stage for a speaking engagement. She’s passionate and moving, charged with an authentic desire to lead positive change in the lives of students, teachers, and families. It’s the kind of goal that people intuitively understand and get behind.