- Who is Sierra Trudel?
Hello SIPPA readers! First I’d like to explain a bit about my journey into positive psychology and how that has lead to the person I am today. My passion for positive psychology began while I was working for a yoga based retail company. This company was transformational. Beginning as a part-time employee, I was taught how to powerfully set goals, be an entrepreneur, live mindfully, live with integrity, and how to share this mindset with a community. I thrived in this environment and found my fiery passion for elevating and empowering others. With hard work and commitment, I quickly moved up in the company to a leadership and regional training role. I became the contact for my region as a coach who could motivate, develop, and inspire a team. With my passion for helping others, I decided to become a certified Life Coach and CrossFit coach. In each of my roles, I thrived on being able to find and develop new means for people of diverse backgrounds to succeed. I fostered confidence and skills in others so they could persist on their own. Being immersed in this work left me desiring more and more knowledge. This is when I made the bold decision to quit my job and enroll full-time to finally fulfill my undergraduate degree. Shortly after, I discovered IPPA and was inspired to conduct original research pertaining to positive psychology. Currently, I am enrolled as a third year graduate student at the University of Hartford in School Psychology. Working within schools, my goal remains to cultivate a positive and flourishing environment.
- How have you incorporated positive psychology in your school system?
This year my practicum site is located at a big picture, alternative education high school. The student population is predominantly those with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. One component to big picture education is incorporating learning on non-cognitive competencies. In addition to traditional academics, students are gaining skills to foster citizenship and metacognitive skills to increase resilience, problem solving, grit, gratitude, and personal leadership, among others. This year is the inaugural year of this program. I have had the pleasure of co-creating and teaching this non-cognitive competencies program for all the students within my school. I deeply believe in this work. I have a passion for inspiring people to exceed their goals and provide the tools to foster optimal well-being, even when they may not believe this themselves. This is truly why I decided to enter the field of school psychology to begin with.
- What made you choose to do this?
I have often thought, what if I had received this instrumental training and personal development work as a child or adolescent? How might that have changed the way I interacted with the world? This work helps to build emotional regulation, self-confidence, and overall it creates positive citizenship. These skills are crucial for success and overall well-being, so why would we not want to teach them to our children? The research suggests that beyond IQ scores, non-cognitive factors are a powerful predictor of academic success. My thought is, let’s develop the skills that will aid in success well beyond an A on a report card. If kids feel good about themselves and their abilities, the grades will inevitably follow to their potential.
- What changes have you seen in your organization since working there?
Most powerfully, the acceptance and support from the teachers. To create authentic and lasting change everyone needs to be speaking the proverbial same language. Therefore, during each lesson we have the teachers remain in their classroom and participate. I think the teachers get to reflect on themselves too. We are all learning and growing together, we can be vulnerable together, and we are building a strong community together.
- How is your work connected to positive psychology?
This work is based in the research conducted by the greats of positive psychology: Angela Duckworth, Carol Dweck, Martin Seligman, Paula Robinson, among so many more. This work is all about creating sustained well-being for students.
- Would you recommend this to other students?
Absolutely! Still, be sure to do your research and due diligence with what methods will work best for your population. This work goes beyond pretty worksheets that can be found in many positive education curricula. These curricula are wonderful foundations, but may not be authentic to your school. Above all, working with students is about creating connection and conversation, while pushing them beyond their comfort zones. You really don’t need anything fancy. You don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in materials or trainings. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with free research and tools available online. Oh, one more crucial thing: don’t forget to laugh with your students. It’s amazing how much humor fosters creativity and learning.
- Where do you see your work impacting the future of education?
This work is the future of education. It’s my life goal to get this work as the foundation for our public education system and to replace academic standardized testing with assessing these instrumental skills.