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Harleton ISD teachers engage in poverty simulation

By Bridget Ortigo
Feb. 21, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Harleton ISD teachers and instructional aids learn the importance of being able to identify and meet the needs of its district's growing low socio-economic student population by participating in a poverty simulation on Feb. 17, 2017.

HARLETON - Harleton ISD teachers and instructional aids spent their day off on Friday participating in a poverty simulation at the district hosted by East Texas Human Needs Network out of Tyler.

The purpose of the simulation was to teach the district's instructors how best to identify and meet the needs of Harleton ISD's growing low socioeconomic student population, Harleton ISD Curriculum and Special Programs Director Angel Johns said on Friday.

"We had all of our teachers and instructional aids here today," Johns said. "About 65 teachers and instructional aids from across the district participated and about 19 volunteers from administration and non-teaching positions, including our Superintendent Craig Coleman came out to help."

The teachers broke up into 26 "families" and were forced to learn how to survive in poverty situations by spending time at work and visiting different assistance agencies and facilities.

They had to figure out how to get enough resources to survive and avoid home eviction before the 15-minute time limit was up.

The 19 volunteers served as the leaders of assistance agencies and other businesses like banks, pawn shops, food banks and employment facilities.

"They did good today," Bridges Community Director Sheila Thrash of East Texas Human Needs Network said. "We only had a few families get evicted today. The problem is that sometimes, if they spend too much time at a job or another facility, they won't have enough time to get to some of the assistance agencies."

Johns said training like this, that serves as professional development for the teachers, is needed now with Harleton ISD's number of growing students living in poverty.

"About 50 percent of Harleton ISD's student population this year is considered economically disadvantaged," Johns said. "That's an increase from years past and each year it is increasing. We had a large increase in homeless students this year and with the economy, a lot of families are doubling up and moving in with parents and grandparents due to loss of jobs."

Johns said if teachers can find ways to meet the immediate needs of those students in poverty, they can help them succeed academically.

"We want to meet the needs of all of our students and especially those that come a special need set," she said. "We want to be able to make these students successful in life and academics."

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