Dr. Mike Golden talks about his experience working with students who have special needs and why he wants them to know, “we won’t give up on you.” In his role, he oversees KVC Missouri’s educational programming, which includes eight KVC Academy locations serving more than 400 children across Missouri. Hear what he has to say about the need KVC Academy is meeting and how we foster learning, growth and healing in a therapeutic school setting.
What do you believe makes KVC Academy unique?
At KVC Missouri, we believe in meeting students and families where they are. The kids we serve may have already struggled with a variety of services offered through their home district, and it hasn’t worked out for them. There are many reasons why this might be the case. Fortunately, at KVC Academy, we can bring additional resources to bear. Our attitude is: We will find a way to serve you.
The thing that really makes us different is our trauma-informed approach. Especially for students who have emotional regulation challenges or who have experienced myriad difficulties in their home lives. We truly treat suspensions as a last resort. We’re committed to building relationships with our students, using restorative practices and demonstrating that we are not going to give up on them. Our staff is dedicated to helping students develop the skills they need to be successful.
Why is KVC Academy sometimes a better option for a student instead of the student’s home school district?
I’m a big believer in public education, but sometimes, particularly in smaller school districts or schools, there may be a low incidence of students who need the mixture of educational and behavioral services we provide.
If a district has only one or two students with these needs, it’s a significant challenge to adequately fund the necessary programming. The individual schools can’t mimic the in-depth level of service we offer, but they can send students who need this vital programming to us. It’s not only more cost-effective for the district; we’re also the experts in the field.
What’s one thing you’d like people to know about special education?
Most of our families are doing the best they can. When students come to us, they’re trying to navigate a variety of challenging life circumstances or cognitive struggles — and often with trauma in their backgrounds, which interferes with their ability to learn. They need adults in their lives who will be there for them. That’s the culture we work to maintain at KVC Academy. We are there for our kids; we meet them where they are. And we won’t give up on them.
What do you think is next for KVC Academy?
The need across the state is great, and we’re working to meet this need. Most of our students are learning on KVC Missouri campuses, but in an effort to serve more families, we’ve begun partnering with local communities. For example, in Lebanon, Boonville and Cameron we’ve established classrooms in existing school buildings. We refer to this as the “embedded” model. There are other communities in Missouri where we believe this model will work and where our services are needed. It’s all part of our commitment to meeting students where they are.
We are also thrilled to share some exciting news with you! KVC Academy is expanding its programs and services in the Columbia, Boonville and Lebanon locations. These additional classrooms will allow us to serve more students in those regions. We are so excited to welcome more students into our nurturing and supportive learning environment. KVC Academy Columbia is also moving locations to allow for more classroom space. The new address is 409 Vandiver West Building 7, Columbia MO 65202. All students referred from our partner school districts will attend at the new location, while we will continue to educate our residential clients on the Bearfield campus as we always have.
How does the education program fit into KVC Missouri’s mission?
In special education, you quickly learn how few students fit into one clear category. Many students work through a range of challenges stemming from behavioral or cognitive struggles, past trauma, instability or addiction. Because KVC Academy is part of KVC Missouri, we have a comprehensive understanding of how these issues interact, and we know how to connect students with the specific services and programs they need to move forward successfully. KVC’s mission revolves around strengthening families and the communities we serve. Our education programs provide services that so many families need and give those families new hope and a chance to see their child succeed in school.
About Dr. Golden
Dr. Mike Golden joined KVC Missouri in June 2020. Before becoming our Vice President of Education, he spent 20 years working in various public school systems, where he specialized in helping students with social and emotional behavioral challenges, serving as a teacher, principal, Special Services Director and Assistant Superintendent. Golden earned a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Maryville University in St. Louis. His work is guided by his belief: “Excellence is a continuous journey, not a destination.”