Wyeka Vista Community Day School teacher Susan Waller recently received the 2009 “Portrait of Success” award, which is given to an outstanding California Community Day School teacher. 
Chosen among hundreds of teachers from around the state, Waller was recognized, in particular, for the work she has done in implementing the “Peace 4 Kids” program in her classroom.
“She is truly one of those teachers who love what she does,” wrote Weed Elementary Principal Tag Pimentel, who nominated Waller for the award.
Working in conjunction with Weed Elementary School, the Wyeka Vista Community Day School provides services for students who are struggling with behavior issues. For those students, the school is an opportunity to develop the social, emotional and behavioral skills necessary to be successful in a regular classroom setting.
Peace 4 Kids is an evidence-based K-12 curriculum that creates simple systems to teach behavior and academic skills. These skills prevent acting out and inappropriate behaviors and create  “cultures” of connectedness, character and academic success. 
More specifically, the program teaches an updated model of Aggression Replacement Training skills through a curriculum that includes training modules in emotional intelligence, anger management, impulse control, social skills, and character education and moral reasoning. It also includes a successful parent family component, as well as a simple effective discipline system, procedures that will ensure effective program set up and research designs and instruments.
“The real success story here is the students,” said Waller.
During a series of impromptu interviews with the boys in Waller’s class, eighth grader Marco Fernandez, said, “Peace 4 Kids helps me understand more about how people are feeling. I used to get mad and get into fights real quick, but I have learned to control that better.”
Ivan Avila said that the program has helped him to understand his emotions better. “I learn character qualities like caring,” Ivan said. He added that the small class size helps him focus and get his work done.
For Travis Morris, his time spent at Wyeka Vista has helped him to control his anger and how other people might be feeling too. 
All of the students must complete a series of levels before they can be considered for reintegration back into Weed Elementary School.  
“Positive reinforcement yields incredible results,” said teacher’s assistant Barbara Brown.
With “Mille” the dog milling about and “Isaac” the parrot chiming in with an occasional comment, it is clear that this is a different kind of class.  “They are working on their regular academics here, but the program is focused on providing the social and emotional skills that will allow them to succeed in other environments,” said Waller. 
Waller has been involved with Community Day School programs in Siskiyou and Shasta counties for quite some time. She was instrumental in starting the Community Day School in Dunsmuir several years ago and then moved on to the Redding Continuation High School for seven years before returning to teach in Weed.