Teacher Spotlight: LeaAnn Brannan Midtovne from Epic Endeavors Preschool

Assistant Director of Epic Endeavors Preschool in Rochester, MN., LeaAnn Brannan Midtovne, speaks to us about how she uses Peekapak in the classroom.

Do you feel there is a need for social-emotional learning programs?

When I was a Special Education teacher in a large public school district, I saw first hand the significant need for a program that teaches children social and emotional skills, like Peekapak. In my position, I experienced an increasing number of special education referrals due to students’ lack of positive interpersonal social skills and emotional regulation skills. These referrals were skills-deficit, (this doesn’t mean they had a learning disability) but many teachers and schools didn’t know how to address this deficit. As I worked at supporting students, I saw very clearly the absence of universal character education and emotional learning for school-age children.

Why did you choose to use Peekapak?

During my decade in the public school system, the universal need for character education was obvious and I tried many ways to fill this need. I tried different programs such as Second Steps, Skill Streaming, SuperFlex, 5 Point Scale, Zones of Regulation, Hidden Curriculum, and many others. As a School-Wide Behavior Specialist implementing PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support) I was searching for a Tier 1 intervention that would be easy for staff to implement school-wide. Digital was a must. Universal implementation with ease was a must. Lo and behold, during my years of struggle and searching, the Peekapak founders were working hard on a product that did just that! When I discovered Peekapak and realized it checked off all the boxes I needed, I was very excited to start using it in my preschool classroom.

What impact has Peekapak had on your preschool students?

The 3, 4 & 5 year-olds I currently work with are absolutely loving the Peekapak program (and the characters, the Peekapak Pals)! The stories are written so that both teacher and student enjoy reading them over and over — they are relatable and the kids understand the core concepts. I see students displaying the skills taught by Peekapak, such as encouraging one another to be kind, have courage or to persevere. Yes, even the 3 year-olds now know what it means to persevere!

What tips do you have for other educators wanting to teach SEL

Start young! This is when children will be most open to your guidance and influence in helping them establish these skills as a habit in their lives.

Do what you can – Someone who cares about character education enough to explicitly teach it to children is all that is really necessary to make an impact. Programs like Peekapak offer great tools that will magnify what you have to offer as an individual.

Build upon each encounterSimple moments or conversations can help build relationships and be learning opportunities. Talk with your students about something that happened recently, or a feeling experienced, or even an interaction between characters on TV or in a book!

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Ami Shah is a Co-Founder & CEO of Peekapak, an edtech startup that teaches social-emotional learning skills like self-regulation, empathy and team work in the class and home. Peekapak is backed by; Silicon Valley based accelerator, Imagine K12, the Edtech vertical of Y Combinator and; the Unreasonable Institute.