Prior to starting at AT&T, I spent over 20 years as a K-12 teacher and principal. The attractions to this work, for me, were the opportunities to have meaningful relationships with staff, students, families, and the community, and to live out the ideals of servant leadership. It was through this focus on serving others and creating relationships that I began to work more and more closely with students that were labeled as having “extreme behaviors.” I was often called on to calm down situations and to help students process their emotions and try to aid them in returning to a calm state.
I began to wonder about why some students reacted so strongly to certain situations and others did not, and I began to do research, which ultimately led me to a study about the impact of traumatic events on the brain and body. I found that when we experience trauma, it imprints on our body, changing the way we interpret and react to the world around us. Once I had that understanding, I was able to approach how I supported my students and their families in a much different way.
I began to share this information with my teachers; helping to train them on resiliency strategies and leading them to create trauma-informed schools. We relied heavily on relationship-building strategies and focused on teaching our students that we cared about who they were, more than about what they knew. This work helped us to reduce suspensions, have more time for instruction, and improve our overall scores; but more importantly, our students and families saw school as a safe place where they were cared about.
As I started at AT&T last year, I had some concerns about leaving that world behind and the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to connect with others in the ways I had while working in public education. So, I was so excited and uplifted when in the span of just a month leadership shared more with us about Our Purpose and Dr. Anna Courie, Director – Responder Wellness, FirstNet® Program at AT&T, announced the formation of the Peer Support Team. Here was a company clearly sharing a vision around authentically connecting with others, and an opportunity to volunteer on a team that was focused on helping those connections happen between employees.
As I interviewed with Dr. Courie and the team about the role of a Peer Support Ambassador and shared my experiences supporting others that have faced tragic events, I began to get a sense of how powerful and life-changing this work could be. Fortunately, leaders in my business unit were supportive, and I was able to attend the training in January. Having participated in, and led, countless trainings over my time in public education, I honestly was not expecting the training to be much more than three days of meetings and lectures.
I was wrong. In 24 years, I have never been through a better training, and I’ve never met a more passionate and caring team. During those three days I got to meet and start working with an amazing team that has continued to demonstrate some of the biggest hearts for servant leadership that I have ever seen. These folks shared personal stories, a vast depth of knowledge and experience, and a desire to just be there for others that still humbles me every time I think about it. They believe in the importance of being connected.
Since then, we have continued to meet remotely and are working on being the best Peer Support Ambassadors we can be. While tragedy is never hoped for, I know that when it happens, our employees have a team of caring and engaged folks that are ready to reach out, make a phone call, and just be there. I know each of them hopes to be a resource, a friend, and someone who will walk with you.
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