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From the Head of the Class: Teaching a Child with Diabetes

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

It’s safe to say whether you are a parent, student, or teacher, back to school definitely requires planning, particularly if you or someone in your life lives with diabetes. Last week, Lorraine Sisto shared her back to school planning approach which certainly goes above and beyond the normal realm of supplies and carpools. Caleb, Lorraine’s son, then confirmed just how valuable his mom’s preparations are. Today, we are happy to share yet another perspective, from the front of the classroom. Meet Kendel Srader, a 5th grade teacher with seventeen years of experience. Five years ago, Kendel was the homeroom and social studies teacher for Sarah Henry, daughter of diabetes advocates and creators of the BlueLoop application, John and Pam Henry.

For Kendel, Sarah was the first student living with type 1 diabetes in her classroom, so it was a new experience. “Sarah and her parents were actually friends and neighbors, living down the street from me, so I knew Sarah had diabetes but I hadn’t been through any official training about helping students with diabetes until Sarah was enrolled in my class.”

When discussing how Kendel prepared to have Sarah in her class, she explained the importance of creating a 504 plan and scheduling a meeting to discuss Sarah’s needs with her, her parents and all pertinent school staff. “During the meeting they explained diabetes in detail, how to recognize highs and lows, the testing process and what to do if an emergency arose.”

Kendel also mentioned that creating a team environment where everyone was on the same page ensured that each person would be prepared to help Sarah if the need occurred. When asked if she was nervous at all, Kendel indicated; “Sarah is very mature, independent and responsible so I wasn’t nervous at all about being there for her. Everyone on the team understood the responsibility and while we watched over her shoulder to start, her knowledge and responsibility eased our minds over the course of the year.”

Fifth grade social studies teacher, Kendel Srader and her family
Kendel Srader and her family

A perfect example of how the team worked together was when the entire class took a three-day field trip to a ranch in East Texas. Kendel and the school nurse worked closely with Sarah to make sure she was checking her blood sugar level and that she wasn’t being impacted by the change in schedule or the Texas heat.

Some additional tips that Kendel offered could be useful for other educators as well:

  • Scheduling the 504 meeting early and involving everyone who will interact with the student. The earlier you plan and prepare, the easier it is to ensure that the teachers, nurses and the entire team are all on the same page.
  • Discuss what to do if the student experiences a high or a low during a quiz or presentation.
  • Help define a schedule that ensures the student has plenty of opportunities to test their blood sugar level.
  • Create a communication plan with everyone on the team, just in case an issue arises.

I want to say thanks to Kendel for sharing her experience working with Sarah. It sounds as though education, planning and communication were critical components to ensuring that Sarah had all the support she needed both in the classroom and on school trips.

I hope this is useful to other educators who might have a student(s) with diabetes in their classroom this fall or in the future.

All the best,

Laura K.

Disclosures: Kendel Srader received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

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