“Every day is a different adventure. My main goal is to help the kids be happy and feel safe at school,” explained Stephenie Kolan. Kolan recently won the Utah PTA Outstanding Support Staff Award for her work with the children at Lehi Elementary.
“When I got that award, I was like, ‘What in the world?’ To me, genuinely, it’s a school effort. Everyone from Principal Brunner and the teachers to our strong PTA is working together to help the kids succeed,” Kolan continued.
Stephenie Kolan has a classroom at Lehi Elementary decorated in primary colors and checkered race flags. There are bean bags, tents, stuffed toys, speed cubes, coloring pages and art supplies. “I call this room The Pit Stop and we use that model of coming in for a short amount of time and refueling, changing the tires so we can get back in the race,” said Kolan. “They come in, get hand sanitizer and set a timer. I never have them in here for more than ten minutes. The ultimate goal is to get them feeling good and back to class.”
“Kids get stressed out during class and they start thinking about missing their moms or something else that is going on,” Stephenie explained. “This room literally helps them reset by taking them out of a moment and a situation long enough to think about something else.” Parents know they can leave their children with Miss Stephenie, and she will help them calm down and focus on the good things about school.
One boy was coming to The Pit Stop at the same time every day. Kolan found out it was always during math that the boy would leave the classroom. “He would come in sobbing and at first, he wouldn’t admit it was because of math. He didn’t get it and everyone around him was getting it,” remembered Kolan. “I had him bring his math worksheet with him one time and we did it together. After a couple of days of taking the paper back finished, he was able to stay in the classroom for math.”
“Everybody works together here. I’m not here to overstep the teacher, I can take one child and work with them one-on-one while the teacher keeps teaching the rest of the class,” said Kolan.
“Our school would not be the same without Stephenie in our corner, supporting students and teachers on a daily basis,” said Lehi Elementary PTA President Pam Bowers. “Student needs vary, from anxiety to having trouble sitting still or even just having a bad day. She reminds us that it’s always okay to stop and take a pit stop when you are feeling a little overwhelmed.”
An essential element of The Pit Stop for Kolan was making it a place for every student at Lehi Elementary. “We use this room as a reward, too. That way, every kid in the school has access to this room and there’s no stigma attached. I didn’t want this room to be branded the ‘naughty room,’” she said. Students get 15-minute tickets to The Pit Stop as a reward and they can even come in with one or two friends.
“Miss Stephenie makes everyone feel loved and important. We are so unbelievably lucky to have her at Lehi Elementary and for all that she does to help support positive mental health for our kiddos,” said Bowers.
“I have the best job in the school. No, I have the best job in the world,” Stephenie concluded with one of her trademark smiles