Pine River-Backus School District: New interventionist position is having an impact

Coronavirus, home life have affected student performance.

Rachel Telfer Contributed / Rachel Telfer

Rachel Telfer, interventionist for Pine River-Backus School's grades 7-8, gave a presentation at the Monday, Nov. 15, regular school board meeting to highlight improvements she has witnessed in students she has been working with since starting in her position at the beginning of the school year.

Telfler has been working with 13 seventh-grade students and 17 eighth-grade students on a regular basis. Those students were identified as candidates for the program based on what she called the "ABC's" - attendance, behavior and course performance.

Her students have met a certain threshold in these categories, such as missing 10% or more of any type of instruction time, having office referrals or chronic failure in a core course (math, science, English or social studies).

Telfler said most of these students had at least one failing subject at the beginning of the semester; however, of her seventh-graders, none in intervention is currently failing any classes. For the eighth-graders, there are some failing grades yet, but grades have significantly improved.

Telfler said that's a challenge to tackle in the second quarter.


Telfler said she works with students, teachers and parents to set smart goals. In some cases those goals can include turning in all assignments in a class or getting at least a C grade. These concrete, achievable goals have helped her students stay motivated.

Telfler also tracks trends with her students. Knowing how and when they struggle helps her create customized plans for overcoming those issues. This can include identifying which subjects they have trouble with, what times of day they have a hard time making it to class on time or which teachers she should communicate with while making a plan.

Sometimes Telfler's job is about uncovering issues from outside of school that are affecting performance.

"This isn't just about school," she said.

In her position, Telfler is able to provide support for those issues from outside of class. This also has an impact on grades.

Telfler's position was largely created to combat the disruption the coronavirus caused and its impact on regular operations at the school. Pine River-Backus has had an interventionist position for grades nine through 11 in the past (and still does); however, the district is attempting to use early intervention to improve results even more.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Learned the student council is working on a Dec. 18 Sno Ball for grades 9-12. More details will become available as the plans are confirmed.
  • Hired Ashley Schlapkohl as cook and Micah Eveland as junior high girls basketball coach.
  • Accepted the resignation of Kathy Cusac from a van driver position.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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