Q&A with an educator: Being a support system

  • Kristen Lundeen is a registered behavior technician at Weare Middle School and Center Woods Upper Elementary. Courtesy photo

Monitor staff
Published: 11/18/2020 6:21:28 PM

Kristen Lundeen wants to take what seems impossible for students, and make it possible.

Lundeen has been a paraprofessional in the Weare School District for the last three and a half years, working with students in fourth through eighth grade at Center Woods Upper Elementary and Weare Middle School.

Lundeen, 46, is a registered behavior technician (RBT), and she works with students to reshape their behavior so that it’s classroom-manageable and students can be more successful in classroom environments. She is also Weare Middle School’s athletic director, and served on the social-emotional committee of the district’s Continuous Learning Task Force this summer to plan for school reopening.

Lundeen says she loves working in a job where she has the opportunity to help students who need a lot of extra support.

“Every day is different, no day is the same as the day before,” Lundeen said. “It’s not always easy, but it’s always something new and an opportunity to make changes and see huge gains and growth.”

Lundeen lives in Weare with her husband, eight children and 40 animals, including dogs, barn cats, goats, chickens, ducks, bunnies, one pig, one cow and one tortoise.

Lundeen sat down with the Concord Monitor recently to discuss her work and the challenges of teaching during COVID-19. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s the most challenging part of doing your job during COVID-19?

In the past, we could see multiple students at a time. You could see two or three in your space and you could sit and process with them and they could play with things that helped deescalate their behaviors, like fidgets or putty. Now those things are impossible, because no hands can share [objects] and we have to be farther apart. In the past, some of our best processing would be sitting side by side, going over things and role playing and now we have to have that great distance as well as the mask in between us. That is hard, because some of the things we discuss aren’t always the fun, happy things. We have to address the ‘why’ behind their behavior and try and reshape it. Imagine that you are trying to do that and so much of your face is covered, so that they can’t see you are the person connected with the emotion behind it. When I want them to leave feeling in a more positive place I want them to know I’m smiling, so sometimes I’ll say “when my eyes crinkle, you can tell Ms. Lundeen is smiling.” There is a lot more communicating my words.

What was it like being on the social-emotional task force for school reopening this summer?

We were focused on the first 10 days back in the building, how to come back to school and have everyone feel safe even though what used to be normal was no longer normal. We had to welcome them back, assure that they were going to be safe, address the needs and the concerns that they had as well as acknowledge that we had missed quite a bit of school and for some of our kids that is a very significant piece of them feeling safe and secure.

What inspired you to become a para?

I have eight kids of my own, and they are my “why” behind everything. I have so much respect for the people they have been able to interact with. We have only lived here for four years, but already this school and this community kind of just took us under its wing and I wanted to be a part of that. Working toward my RBT certification just pointed me in the right direction to where I needed to be. It’s nice to be known as, “this is Ms. Lundeen, she’s a good person to go to.” That feels amazing. I am making a difference in an area where students really need a lot of support.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time as an educator?

I had a student who went from really poor completion of work the year before I met him, and when I talked to him it was almost impossible to carry on a successful conversation. The way that I broke through with him was, we would set a schedule of what was expected for each and every day and at the end as a reward, we would play Uno. We made it through almost the entire year with this big reward at the end. You wouldn’t think hanging out with your para was a big deal, but still to this day when things are tough or he’s struggling, either he or his mom will reach out and have a quick check-in email and I think that’s one of my favorite things. There is still somebody out there who identifies me three-plus years later as one of their people. It’s just those relationships that are so critical, because that student was minimally-achieving, and then he made it to passing eighth grade and moving on as a successful student. It was just phenomenal, the change. [This Uno card] is hanging up behind me on my board all the time, for me to remember that the change is possible. The impossible is always possible.

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