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Feb. 2, 2021

Imagine Project helping education students overcome trauma through creative writing

By Kourtnie Stenwall, communication assistant


A non-profit organization dedicated to providing kids with tools to overcome stress and trauma is helping future teachers at Northwest Missouri State University work through their own trauma before they transition to a classroom full-time.

Dr. Rebecca Moore, assistant professor of professional education in the School of Education, brought The Imagine Project to Northwest after attending a trauma conference in St. Louis two years ago and meeting Dianne Maroney, the program’s creator and author of “The Imagine Project: Stories of Courage, Hope and Love.” Through creative writing, The Imagine Project helps kids, teens and adults overcome trauma, such as emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury.

The project is designed for young children, but Moore and Dr. Sandy Seipel, assistant professor of professional education, wanted to tailor it toward Northwest students. It gives Northwest education majors an opportunity to try writing their own stories.

“The Imagine Project is part of a trauma module that we share with our students,” Moore said. “We emphasize the importance of coping with their own traumatic experiences in a healthy way. In return, our early childhood students can begin to fully support the students in their classrooms and provide tools needed for them to understand and cope with their trauma. The Imagine Project helps build resiliency and mindfulness in our Early Childhood students and children alike.”

Seipel added, “The mission of The Imagine Project is to give kids a voice that can bring positive change, and that stands out to me as I think about this. We felt that it was important for them to really be able to go through the process and tell their story because we all have a story, and if we aren’t open to expressing that story and sharing it, then it stays pent up inside.”

Moore and Seipel could not have predicted how important The Imagine Project would be to college students, especially in the midst of a stressful pandemic and political environment.

“After reading our students’ Imagine stories, it was evident they were struggling at a core level, and I think that resonates with everything we have seen across campus, around the country and the world,” Seipel said. “Our college students are struggling and, as teacher candidates and future teachers, we need to equip them with the tools to be able to dig deeper into their thoughts and their processes. We are modeling for them what they can do when they are a teacher in a classroom.”

Anna Marie Cardello, a senior early childhood education major from Lake Lotawana, Missouri, has experienced children with trauma in an educational setting. She believes having educators with an understanding of trauma is essential to teaching.

“We have no idea what will happen going into our future classrooms,” Cardello said. “There will be students who come from really difficult home lives, and it is important that we are educated so we know how to deal with those things.”

In November, Moore and Seipel reached out to Maroney, and she invited Moore to be part of a virtual gala to share how Northwest’s School of Education is using The Imagine Project. During a viewing event, Moore shared students’ Imagine stories, which left gala viewers impacted regarding the importance of training teachers to cope with their own traumas in hopes of supporting their future students.

Launched in 2017, Northwest’s early childhood program equips pre-service teachers with knowledge strategies, skills and dispositions to teach children from infancy up to 8 years old. In addition to coursework focused on child-centered and culturally sensitive practices, students participate in embedded field experiences with Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School, its Phyllis and Richard Leet Center for Children and Families and partnering community settings. Combined, these learning experiences provide the basis from which theories about development, learning and curriculum come to life for students.

The early childhood education program is growing rapidly, and Moore and Seipel are continuously adapting their instruction, not only to keep up with the growth but to bring new ways of learning and technology usage to the classroom.

The School of Education has enrolled its third early childhood cohort since the bachelor’s degree launched in August 2018. Additionally, a new online professional master’s degree in early childhood education will launch in the fall of 2021.

With the help of the Missouri Department of Social Services and a $1.6 million grant awarded to Northwest, the early childcare and early education programs will soon have opportunities to further develop their skills in a new infant-toddler classroom in Everett W. Brown Hall. The expansion is scheduled to be operational by July 1.

“Our early childhood students are excited,” Moore said. “They come with a passion to make an impact on young children. Our students are fully invested in their practice.”


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704