There's no question the pandemic and the lockdowns have affected our society.

It's been especially tough for students coming back to the classroom after a couple of years of remote learning, as they simply didn't get exposed to appropriate emotional or social skills like they would in a normal school year.

"This is why I think we saw more students in school struggling with a variety of behaviors," said Cheri Quandt, a school social worker at Swan Valley.

To meet response to this challenge head-on, Cheri and Sarah Baird, an Emotional Impairment Consultant with the Saginaw ISD, introduced de-escalation strategies for fifth-graders at Swan Valley Havens Elementary School.

"Cheri and Sarah do amazing work for us," said Nicole Rethman, special education supervisor at Swan Valley School District. "They assist our students in strengthening their social and emotional well-being."

The program Cheri and Sarah developed for fifth-graders is called How to Respond When I am Anxious or See Others Who Are Anxious.

"We encourage students to recognize anxiety in themselves," Sarah said. "And our presentation is broken down into two parts. We first talk to students about what anxiety is and how they feel when they are anxious and then we discuss together some of the coping skills they can use to control and ease the anxiety they might be feeling."

Along with responding to anxiety, Cheri and Sarah teach students how to interact positively to their classmates who may act out occasionally.

The students learn additional coping skills, different strategies, and when to back-off and seek out adult intervention.

 "There's a lot of interaction," Sarah said. "Our presentation isn’t about us, just us talking. It’s exciting to see the fifth-graders sharing with each other and very engaged."

Last school year Cheri and Sarah provided staff members at both elementary schools in Swan Valley with an overview of their presentation prior to rolling it out to fifth-graders this year.

 "Next year we hope to present it to all grade levels," Cheri said.