Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, EDD

Committee Chair

Brydon-Miller, Mary

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Alagaraja, Meera

Committee Member

Alagaraja, Meera

Committee Member

Buecker, Harrie

Committee Member

Marks-Johns, LaMesa

Author's Keywords

Secondary trauma; elementary teachers; secondary traumatic stress


This research study examined the lived experiences of elementary educators working with traumatized students. Secondary trauma among other professions such as social workers and first responders is well-documented (Bride et al., 2007). Research on the impact it has on educators is still limited (Hill, 2011). This dissertation provides evidence that educators are directly impacted by the work that they do to support and educate their students. A phenomenological approach is used to explore the troubling personal challenges educators face while working with traumatized students. The study examines elementary teachers’ experiences using the Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) lens as a theoretical framework. It opens with the sobering reality of urban school settings and the significant number of students exposed to trauma. An in-depth look at the various secondary trauma constructs is presented, along with an examination of protective factors that can be implemented. The study also illustrates the types of trauma experienced by children and the challenges it presents to educators providing support to students. The findings present compelling evidence that educators experience distressing emotions, intrusive imagery, physiological arousal, and other indicators aligned to STS. The study exposes the importance of applying STS to the education occupation and explores preventative self-care responses to deflect the harming effects on those who are committed to serving others.

Included in

Education Commons