MLFTC student aims to help build trauma-sensitive classrooms

Jenna T
August 29, 2023
Meghan Ensell

MLFTC and Barrett, The Honors College student Jenna Tulonen (BAE Educational Studies, ’24) envisions a world in which everyone matters, and through her degree aims to help educators and school systems build trauma-sensitive classrooms and curricula that support the development of healthy coping skills and social and emotional learning in learners.

“The Educational Studies program seemed like an amazing opportunity to show the world that skilled educators are needed everywhere, both in and outside of the classroom,” says Tulonen. Specializing in the family and human development track of the program, Tulonen says she is grateful for the opportunity to work with faculty experts in the field and learn approaches that can strengthen equity and inclusivity within school systems. 

A native of Belgium, Tulonen moved to the United States with her family when she was 14 years old and is trilingual in English, Finnish and French. Her parents divorced a decade ago and since then, Tulonen says, “I have become a passionate advocate for mental health. The divorce was both mentally and emotionally taxing and the repercussions reaffirmed the notion that I never want anyone, especially K–12 students to feel alone in adversity.” 

Tulonen’s goal is to work collaboratively with schools and teachers as a trauma-informed specialist by designing more inclusive, strengths-based trauma-response strategies and social-emotional learning teaching moments. “Classroom teachers carry many responsibilities that I believe could be more effectively re-distributed amongst other school personnel with specific areas of expertise,” she says. 

Currently working on her honors thesis, which focuses on revisiting the nature and effectiveness of trauma-response protocols in K–12 settings, Tulonen hopes to bring greater awareness to more inclusive trauma-response strategies for schools. Trauma has the possibility to touch every individual — it doesn’t discriminate, she says. “And trauma, as an emotional response, can be universally understood but the nature of the response cannot. I am passionate about further exploring the use of trauma-sensitive rhetoric in the modern school context.”

Tulonen is president of the MLFTC student organization Teachers of the Future, which works to promote the social and professional growth of education majors. She plans to pursue a master’s and doctoral degree in the same field.