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AWARE Ink Newsletter

AWARE Early Head Start Builds Upon the Pyramid Model to Help Kids Grow

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

Recently, AWARE’s early childhood team was invited to become part of a pilot program that supports a program-wide Pyramid Model implementation in its centers across Montana.

A grant was awarded by The Office of Early Head Start to help AWARE bring the program to 100 percent fidelity. What that means is our team is dedicated to ensuring teaching practices and the curriculum are consistent throughout the early childhood centers.

The Pyramid Model is a framework that promotes social and emotional competence in infants and young children.

As part of this framework, our early childhood team is trained to ensure each child experiences nurturing and responsive relationships and a supportive environment while attending AWARE Early Head Start.

Plus, the Pyramid Model provides a structure for children who need additional social-emotional support or intensive interventions.

Bringing the Pyramid Model to Fidelity

AWARE’s early childhood program was trained in the framework back in 2010 as part of a nationwide effort to promote the social and emotional development of children, increase staff competence and confidence and reduce challenging behavior in the classroom.

Jamie Knott, AWARE Mental Health Consultant, is part of the pilot program committee along with members of the AWARE early childhood team. The full team includes early childhood leadership, teachers, a data coordinator, childcare partnership members, health and safety managers and a parent.

According to Jamie, the pilot program makes the Pyramid Model a priority on all levels to bring the center to fidelity. Jamie says, currently, the program runs at about 70%.

“It’s not an easy task,” Jamie said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”

So, during the next three to five years, small but significant changes will slowly take place in each center, to include the childcare partnership programs.

Together with their coach from the Office of Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Center Region 8, they are working to build a leadership implementation plan with monthly goals.

For example, in honor of the Week of the Young Child in April, implementation focused on ways the team could help kids with literacy and social and emotional skills.

The first step was to name two staff members as full-time mental health consultants. Both Jamie and Trista Vonada were named to these positions.

Previously the duo split their time between direct care and consulting.

“I was unsure at first because I was always doing therapy one-on-one,” Jamie said. “But now I see how my work affects all the kids in the classroom.”

Progress Through Proactive Support

Progress toward fidelity primarily focuses on adult behavior support. Training is provided in the classroom and in a three-part training module that teaches how to build relationships while decreasing or eliminating challenging behaviors.

For example, training teaches the team about being reactive vs. proactive.

Trista said that being reactive is an old way that produces shame. While being proactive builds strong connections and relationships and creates a high-quality environment.

Inspired by a book called ‘I Am A Super Friend,’ a special game was created in the hallways at the Center for Early Childhood in Butte that allows the kids and teachers to connect in a proactive way.

The Super Friends Hallway is made up of a course filled with common shapes and colors. The kids are guided by adults and take turns hopping, skipping and jumping through a course. They even get to wear a superhero cape.

Jamie says that the game provides a way for the kids to learn cooperative behavior through play, building on school readiness, self-regulation, self-control, mobility and friendship.

“The Pyramid is something that is embedded in all we do, and the Super Friends Hallways is just one way to help the kids learn how to behave,” Jamie said.

Learn More

To learn more about AWARE’s early childhood program and centers, visit

We are currently enrolling children in our centers in Belgrade, Billings, Butte, Helena and Whitehall, Montana. You can apply at this link:

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