Faculty Fellow: Dr. Kristie Opiola

2019-2020 Engagement Faculty Fellow

Developing Sensitive and Responsive Teachers through Trauma Sensitive Teaching Methods in the CATO College of Education

Trauma informed or trauma sensitive teaching is a new paradigm in education philosophy and practice. The effects of trauma on children are greater than one can imagine and society can no longer ignore the far-reaching impact of traumatic experiences on today’s youth. According to Copeland (2018), up to 60 percent of children have experienced or were subjected to at least one traumatic event before the age of 16, and 30 percent of these children had experienced multiple events. Therefore, integrating trauma sensitivity into the educational system is paramount as trauma informed approaches are counter to most of the assumptions educators have about misbehaviors and poor academic performance. Dr. Opiola will use her knowledge and skills to enhance and support awareness and competency in trauma informed culture, practices, and policy to impact our students’ development in trauma informed care.


Kristie Opiola, Ph.D., LPC, RPT, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling in the Cato College of Education. One of her academic interests is Trauma Informed Care (TIC), a philosophy for educators and care providers that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of trauma in order to provide a safe, compassionate, and supportive community for children and families who are experiences toxic stress due to previous traumas. She is currently focused on a comprehensive approach to treating trauma by 1.) researching a teacher training model that helps pre-service and in-service teachers become change agents in their students’ lives by learning alternative strategies and skills to address trauma symptoms and behavioral challenges in the classroom; 2.) researching counseling approaches that alleviate the long-term impact of trauma on children, teens, and their families; 3.) co-creating and teaching trauma content in REEL, MDSK, and CSLG classes/ courses that increase teachers and counselors knowledge of trauma for children, teens, and adults; 4.) presenting on Trauma Informed Care at national conferences; and 5.) creating a trauma minor/concentration for Cato College of Education.