“When my mom was incarcerated, I missed her.” Trauma’s Impact on Learning in Pre-K-12 Classrooms

  • Andie Cunningham
Keywords: trauma, well-being, student engagement, childre, k-12, learning community


Trauma affects our classrooms frequently. Children who observe or experience trauma directly often demonstrate an altered learning process and shifting emotional needs. What guidance might inform K-12 instruction productively? This article frames the patterns discovered when a teacher researcher studied the teaching practices, strategies, and language of six educators who survived their own experiences of childhood sexual assault. With a keen awareness on strength and fragility, I detail the engaging, authentic, and community-centered methods from educators who turned their own experiences of trauma into effective ways to engage learners and build welcoming learning communities.

Author Biography

Andie Cunningham

Andie Cunningham works to craft welcoming learning communities for elementary students and the adults who teach them by blending trauma-informed practices with social-emotional learning, neuropsychology, literacy, and compassion. A curious teacher-researcher and a dedicated Courage to Teach facilitator, Andie studies how relational trust among faculty members increases school success. While working with a classroom of kindergartners who spoke more than seven languages, an everexpanding breadth of differing socioeconomic variables, and a variety of family structures, she co-wrote the book “Starting with Comprehension: Reading Strategies for the Youngest Learners” with Ruth Shagoury. Currently, she teaches second and fourth graders in a rural elementary school.

How to Cite
Cunningham, A. (2017). “When my mom was incarcerated, I missed her.” Trauma’s Impact on Learning in Pre-K-12 Classrooms. LEARNing Landscapes, 10(2), 131-143. https://doi.org/10.36510/learnland.v10i2.806