Special Education Coordinator Christopher Gereke, from left, is congratulated by Spring ISD Board of Trustees President Rhonda Newhouse for his induction into the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Hall of Merit.
HOUSTON – Aug. 1, 2019 – Spring ISD Special Education Coordinator Christopher Gereke has worn many hats during his 19 years with the district. He’s been a sub, a paraprofessional and a teacher, as well as a coach and trainer of both students and staff. As a longtime trainer in the techniques of Nonviolent Crisis Intervention, Gereke helps staff members broaden their own perspective in order to help them fulfill Spring ISD’s promise to “Reach Every Student.”
“A lot of people leave the training and their eyes are opened,” Gereke said, adding that the crisis intervention training focuses on early intervention and de-escalation, so that staff members can safely resolve difficult situations in the classroom and elsewhere before they get out of hand. “It helps them be engaged. And the kids are actually learning more, because someone knows how to listen to them, to treat them as a person rather than as a behavior.”
Gereke’s commitment and dedication were formally recognized this summer when the Milwaukee-based Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) announced its 2019 inductees into the CPI Hall of Merit, naming him among a select group who this year achieved Meritorious Status as a Certified Instructor in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention. Out of 36,000 active Certified Instructors worldwide working with CPI’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training Program, Gereke is one of just 539 to have been inducted into the Hall of Merit since it was first introduced in 2011.
“It’s nice to see Chris rewarded for just being who he is – for just being Chris,” said Executive Director of Special Education Margaret Sherwood. “He’s a kids-first kind of guy, and he works hard to make sure all of our students have a level playing field and the chance to be successful.”
Over nearly a decade-and-a-half spent teaching Nonviolent Crisis Intervention techniques in Spring ISD, Gereke has trained almost 5,000 staff members, from teachers, administrators and bus drivers, to campus safety personnel and Spring ISD police officers, among others. Knowing his work has an impact helps keep him motivated, especially during the busiest training seasons, including the period leading into the new school year.
“I’ve always been very passionate about this training,” Gereke said. “I’m especially excited about how it helps employees reassess how they work with students with special needs. Best of all, it helps keep the kids in school, so they can achieve academic success.”
Gereke was formally named a Meritorious Instructor by CPI during the organization’s national conference this month. He was also honored earlier in the summer by the Spring ISD Board of Trustees, which recognized Gereke during its June meeting.
According to Sherwood, who first met Gereke when he was a special education teacher and she was working as a consultant for the district, the calm, clear-headed and strategic approach taught during the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention training is something Gereke has worked hard to embody in his own work, as well.
“Chris has always worked really, really well with our students that have significant disabilities, including those whose disabilities aren’t as apparent on the surface,” Sherwood said. “He just has a knack for coming in and settling things down.”
For Gereke, the work in Spring ISD has been rewarding, as he’s had the opportunity to see the district – and his own field of special education – develop over time. “We get a lot of support here, from district leadership and campus leadership,” he said. “I’m really excited about being in Spring ISD, and excited about being part of the change. It’s always evolving.”
Part of that evolution, Gereke said, has come with a greater expectation for inclusiveness and in celebrating the diversity – and diverse gifts – of the whole student body, including recognizing the gifts that special needs students share with their campuses.
“Inclusion is the model,” he said, “just having them be part of the community. And our campus leaders and district leaders are really supportive of that.”
Gereke first began working with the district as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher in 2002, going on to become a certified classroom teacher and later earning his master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where he recently returned as a student – this time in the university’s Doctor of Education in Ethical Leadership program.
He was recently tasked with coordinating the district’s special education transition program, which works with middle school and high school special needs students to help them and their families understand and take advantage of the many options available to them after they finish at Spring ISD.
“That’s one of Chris’s passions, to help these young people successfully make that transition,” Sherwood said. “Chris is the kind of guy who, it doesn’t matter what you need or when you need it, he’s always there. He’s always there for our kids, always ready to help.”