Trauma-Responsive Teaching

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges experienced by students who have been the victims of trauma. Research shows that trauma can affect any learner, and that its effects are cumulative: A new experience can often revive symptoms of past trauma. Given this, it is no surprise that many of our students have struggled during and after the pandemic.

To help faculty understand how to support students on their learning journeys, the Faculty Senate Teaching & Learning Subcommittee (TLS) and CTET have teamed up to invite Dr. Karen Gross, a nationally recognized expert on trauma-responsive teaching, to lead a series of workshops and learning experiences at Sonoma State University. Through these experiences, Dr. Gross will share her understanding of trauma and its impact on the learning experience, and give faculty practical tools with which to address these challenges.

To explain more about the planned curriculum, Dr. Gross has prepared a video introduction:


(All events will be held over Zoom unless otherwise noted. Please see each event's webpage for more details.)

Recording of December 9 session

Recording of January 13 session

Dr. Karen Gross’ Bio

Karen Gross is an educator, author, and artist. She specializes in student success across the PreK—20 educational pipeline and focuses her attention on students who are traumatized or otherwise at risk based on socio-economic status, gender, race or ethnicity or religion. She also blogs regularly and speaks to groups and her artwork often appears in these venues. She is regularly quoted in the media and has participated in broadcasts and podcasts on current issues involving education, including PBS, NPR Cross Currents, The New York Times, The Week, Reader's Digest and Thrive Global, all as detailed on her website. 

Dr. Gross has worked as a teacher, lawyer, college professor, college president, and Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education. She currently serves as a continuing education instructor at Rutgers School of Social Work, teaching courses on trauma. She has been a visiting professor at several universities including at Bennington College and the University of British Columbia. She also recently taught a course on how to write, illustrate, design and publish children’s books through the Rocky Neck Art Colony and a workshop series for the MA PTA on how to read to children in an animated trauma-responsive way.

Her latest adult book, Trauma Does Not Stop at the School Door, focuses on how to create trauma responsive educational institutions. It was named one of top five education book releases in June 2020 and won the 2021 DKG International Educators Book of the Year Award. It extends the arguments from her earlier also award-winning adult book Breakaway Learners (published by Teachers College Press 2017). With Dr. Ed Wang, she is completing a trilogy of the above books with a new work tentatively titled Mending Education, which will be released in 2023. This book focuses on the positive changes engendered in education that will improve the lives of students across the educational landscape. She is also the author of 12 children’s books, including the Lady Lucy’s Quest series. Several of her children’s books have been translated into Spanish and one is bilingual (as is the author). She has also illustrated one of her own books – a book of children’s poetry called Flying Umbrellas and Red Boats.

All of Gross’ professional efforts, now over 40 years, have focused on asset building in low income communities, community economic development, over indebtedness and the success of more vulnerable populations including low income individuals, diverse populations, first generation students. Her teaching, speaking, books and art further these goals.

Gross currently divides her time between Gloucester, MA. and Washington, DC. She is a Phi Beta Kappa Cum Laude graduate of Smith College, having spent her junior year as a Rufus Choate Scholar at Dartmouth College in its first year of co-education. She graduated Cum Laude from Temple University School of Law, having spent her third year of law school at the University of Chicago. She also has a D. H. L. and is a certified psychological first aid provider.

She can be emailed at: She is active on social media and can be contacted there as well.

Date Information
March 28, 2023
Recognizing Trauma in Our Students and Developing Amelioration Strategies

Do you wonder how trauma affects our brains, what its symptoms are, and how you can help your students deal with it? Trauma responsive pedagogy combines research and practice experience to give you the tools that you need.

Engaging the Disengaged Student: Strategies and Suggestions

Why do students disengage from learning? Often, this is a symptom of trauma. This conservation will build on our first session and explore ways in which students can become more engaged in the courses in which they are enrolled.

Open Conversation on Trauma Responsive Pedagogy

Do you have questions about trauma responsive pedagogy? Are you struggling with student disengagement in your classes? Join Dr. Gross for an open discussion driven by your questions.

Open Conversation on Trauma Responsive Pedagogy

Do you have questions about trauma responsive pedagogy? Are you struggling with student disengagement in your classes? Join Dr. Karen Gross for an open discussion driven by your questions.

Moving Forward with Hope and Healing

Hope matters! Join us to examine strategies we deployed to enable student success during the COVID-19 pandemic, and learn how and why these approaches worked. That will help us continue to employ, replicate, and scale these approaches to improve the educational landscape.

Helping Your Students (and Yourself!) Process Fear and Grief

The recent shootings at Michigan State University, like all university shootings, have deeply affected all of us in higher education.

Community Conversation: How Are You Doing?

Students, Faculty and Staff come join us for a conversation with Dr. Karen Gross, a specialist in trauma and its impact on student learning.  She will share strategies for dealing with the stress and anxieties that the pandemic, school violence, and other traumatic events have created for individuals like you.

Reception with Dr. Karen Gross

Faculty, you are invited to a wine and cheese networking reception with Dr. Karen Gross. If you have any questions that you'd like to discuss with her in person, or if you'd just like to relax with your fellow faculty, we invite you to join us.