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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Faces of CARE: Pat Gausepohl

The principal of a Kentucky middle school on making connections with social and emotional learning.
Grace Rubenstein
Former senior producer at Edutopia
Credit: Nathan Kirkman

The CARE for Kids program reminds Carrithers Middle School principal Pat Gausepohl of her beginnings in education, back when she was a teacher focused on connecting with her students.

"When I was a teacher, I developed relationships with the kids, and the kids responded to me because they knew I cared for them and I knew they cared for me," she says. "Now it seems like, because of standardized testing, the kids don't know the teachers care, because we're on a timeline."

As CARE for Kids creates time in every school day for teachers to build relationships with students, Gausepohl (pronounced "gospel") says she's feeling that "old-time teaching" return. In fact, the school environment is so much more stable and welcoming than it was a few years ago, the principal brings her grandbabies in to visit. "I haven't been called a b---- in two years. That's really good," says Gausepohl, laughing. "And kids hug me, kids that wouldn't hug their mother."

The respect and openness promoted by the program also allow her to share with students some lessons from her own personal experience. "If the students say 'I don't have a daddy,' I say, 'My son's daddy got out of my son's life when he was in eighth grade,'" she explains. "And I share with them the journey my son and I went through and how you can survive and still be successful."

She finds that the stronger students' relationships with teachers become, the more respectfully the kids behave and the more they want to achieve. "I'm feeling that love between the student and teacher coming together again," Gausepohl says. "It's bringing me back to where I was, so that when I leave my profession I'm going out the way I came."

Grace Rubenstein is a senior producer at Edutopia.

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