PNDC for Educators: K-12

Using This Information Packet: This packet includes (1) an overview of the training; (2) short biographies for Sharon Strand Ellison and her daughter, Ami Atkinson Combs, who are the primary master teachers of the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ process developed by Sharon; (3) a partial client list; and (4) comments from educators and school-based therapists.

The overview starts with the introduction from the landing page and then continues with more information. You can start with "More . . ." if you've already read the introduction.

Training Context & Overview
Biographical Information
Partial Client List
Comments From Educators and School-Based Therapists: K-12
School-Based Therapists

See more about Training Options on the Menu Bar under Topics

Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: Educating our children today is an enormous task. Teachers must manage classrooms of children, many of who are more vocal and less responsive to expectations than in decades past. Classrooms are frequently far more diverse, requiring increasing cultural awareness. Teachers must often co-ordinate with parents and other educators about educational plans for children with various kinds of special needs. Issues regarding bullying have increased dramatically; far more caution is required when monitoring who is authorized to pick a child up from school. Being a dedicated educator does not ensure that there will be agreement among teachers, students, aides, parents, specialists and administrators. The level of frustration can become overwhelming for everyone. Highly effective skills in being direct and honest while defusing defensiveness are invaluable.

More . . . Traditional methods of communication are a major key to the problem. In Sharon’s conference keynotes and training programs, she demonstrates how we have literally used the “rules of war” as the basis for how we talk to each other. In essence, how we are talking is often more likely to create and accelerate conflict than to resolve it. The result is that too often teachers, parents and others involved in the child’s education are at odds with each other instead of working together.

Training sessions will cover the physiology of defensiveness and six common defensive modes used by adults and children alike. Then participants will learn a process of communication that is designed to diffuse defensiveness and help people move quickly out of power struggle. The process is simple enough for children to learn, yet sophisticated enough to be challenging for adults. Unlike traditional communication, it does not require cooperation from others to be effective.

Participants will learn specific methods for: (a) Asking questions that prompt children and/or adults to open up, getting at the heart of an issue quickly, (b) Giving feedback without conveying judgment, so children and/or adults feel respected and are more likely to listen, (c) Stating opinions clearly without convincing or arguing, and (d) Setting boundaries that increase the likelihood that others will respond with greater competence, accountability and reciprocity.

Using non-defensive communication skills can be a powerful tool for creating open, real conversation about children’s needs, so that instead of becoming alienated from each other, teachers, parents, and others involved can resolve difficult issues and conflicts while building strong bonds as a unified team. The individual child’s interests can be met, while simultaneously honoring the needs of the class as a whole.

Biographical Information

Sharon Strand Ellison, Executive Director of the Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (IPNDC), is an internationally recognized communication consultant, an award-winning speaker and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words. Sharon has her Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Juvenile Corrections from the University of Oregon and was a Scholar in Residence at Saint John's University. She with her daughter, Ami Atkinson produced the award-winning audiobook, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. Sharon is a pioneer in developing methods for eliminating defensiveness so people can communicate with constructive power.

As early as the 1970’s, Sharon began developing pioneering programs, taking her counseling sessions out of the office and into home, school and playground environments where she taught on-the-spot parent, teacher, and peer relationship skills. She has provided a unique form of play therapy for children and trained other therapists in the process. Sharon has taught children in of all ages how to respond effectively to bullies. She trained 450 high school freshmen in using non-defensive communication after a gang-related murder. In addition, she has provided extensive training in Powerful Non-Defensive Communication for professionals in many family-related fields, including classroom teachers, special education teachers, specialists (such as speech therapists), aides, administrative staff and principals. Sharon has also been providing providing coaching and counseling parents for more than 40 years.

Ami Atkinson Combs, Director of IPNDC, is a graduate of Mills College, has been a research coordinator at Stanford University Medical School, as well as Interim Manager of the Stanford Child and Adolescent Division of Psychiatry. Prior to that, she worked with severely abused children at Lincoln Center in Oakland, CA. is a graduate of Mills College and co-author of the audiobook Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. As Sharon’s daughter, she has been an active participant in the years of discussion as Sharon envisoned and refined the PNDC Communication model. Ami has done psychosocial research at Stanford Medical School, been on the Newborn and Parent Advisory Board at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, and worked with severely abused children.

Ami is gifted in the art of identifying relationship systems. She is also highly skilled in modeling the interruption of any process that involves defensiveness and power struggle and offers coaching and workshops for parents. She also speaks at conferences and provides training for early childhood education programs.

Ami’s innate understanding of systemic patterns in communication is alsp a cornerstone of her work with organizations, helping individual teams as well as the organization as a whole to strengthen their communication internally and with their client base. She offers coaching and trainings for educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations. Her clients include: General Dynamics, CA; Lockheed-Martin, CA; Habitat for Humanity, CA; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Toronto, Canada; The Association for Early Childhood Education, National Conference, and CCG Systems, VA.

Partial Client List

Along with providing public workshops for individuals, couples, and parents, our clients include:

  • Milwaukee Public Schools, WI
  • Berkeley PTA, CA
  • Park Day School, CA
  • Contra Costa Jewish Day School, CA
  • American High School, CA
  • Lane County School District 4-J, OR
  • Federal Way Public Schools, WA
  • Montessori Schools, OR, CA, MN
  • Head Start, OR, CA
  • Vista Youth Program, CA
  • Youth Empowerment Now, CA

In addition, she has provided training for

  • The Center for Families, Children & the Courts, CA
  • California Statewide Student Leadership Conference
  • Merced Foster Care Program, CA
  • Stanford University, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital
  • UCSF Pediatric Intern Program
  • Mental Health Resources and Education Network, OR
  • The San Francisco Medical School
  • Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute

In the area of serving special needs youth in school settings, some of Sharon’s clients include:

  • Matrix Parent Network and Information Center, Regional Conference, San Francisco, CA
  • Pearl Buck School, Eugene, OR
  • Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative
  • The Child Center, Eugene, OR
  • Therapists In Educational Settings (TIES), Oregon Statewide Conference
  • San Mateo School District, CA
  • Teachers and therapists in various schools and districts in Oregon, such as Pendleton ESD, Jackson County ESD, and Douglas County ESD

See More Complete Client List

Comments From Educators and School-Based Therapists: K-12

I have come to regard non-defensive communication as a powerful tool in my teaching and personal life. I learned how to actually gain power by not engaging in defensive tactics. Still, I was not totally convinced of the efficacy of this strategy until I used it at my middle school where I deal with kids seasoned in power struggles. It worked! Students were able to walk away from disagreements, both sides feeling okay about the results, not the usual fight/lose model. I think my students are now willing to consider a different way of solving their problems. The seeds of peace have been planted.

Linda Bennet, Block 6 Teacher, Thurston Middle School, Springfield, OR

I am struck by how this process is such a clear way of communicating without constant power struggles. Two groups of teachers at Thurston Middle School have asked Sharon to provide workshops for them. If, as teachers, we can communicate non-defensively, we can understand quickly what is going on with a student. Most of the time we never get to the heart of what is going on. I see a huge difference now in the response I get from kids and how calm I feel when I use non-defensive communication. If we could use it on a broad scale the number of problems we face with our children would be dramatically decreased.

I also think that having kids learn non-defensive communication in elementary school would make an incredible difference in their lives, as well as our lives as teachers, by the time kids got to middle school and high school. In fact, we arranged for Sharon to teach these skills to all of the seventh graders at Thurston Middle School. Literally, by the next day, we saw students successfully using the skills to resolve conflicts. I believe that if all children could learn non-defensive communication at an early age, we would have a different world.

Joanne Dunnck, Thurston Middle School, Springfield, OR

Sharon Ellison's presentation was extremely valuable for our school. An excellent teacher and presenter, Sharon helped us uncover our unconscious communication patterns when conflicts arise and examine how counterproductive, even harmful, they can be. Through her direct modeling and expertly woven anecdotes, we learned and practiced a new way to handle difficulties and conflicts.   Not only did her work give our staff tools to help strengthen our own colleagueship, but it also gave us valuable guidance in communicating effectively with parents and students.   As a Jewish Day School, we consciously teach the values of peace and loving-kindness and Sharon's work in non-defensive communication supports us to model these values in our day-to-day interactions. 

—Lisa Friedman, Director of General Studies, Contra Costa Jewish Day School    

I visited your workshop so that I might consider offering it to (K-12) educators and I was so deeply affected by the information, the role-plays and my own insights that I stayed for the whole weekend. Your specific concepts and skills make so much sense to me, and they are very organized, easy to understand and easy to practice. The workshop was outstanding. I appreciated your warmth and excellent modeling of non-defensive communication. Thank you for a wonderful experience.

Brooke Belcher, Program Director, Education 2000, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Sharon's workshops for students on non-violent communication are right on target. Students were engaged in role plays and learn easy-to-apply, practical and useful methods of communication and questioning that allow them to not only disarm a verbal aggressor, but to actually open the doors to real communication and problem solving. We saw the kids transferring these techniques to real-life situations right away in the classroom and on the playground.

—Laurie Grossman & Karen Colaric, Community Outreach & Program Coordinators, Park Day School, Oakland, CA

Sharon Ellison presented a full day workshop on Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication for a group of 220 occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language clinicians and educators from all over the State of Oregon.

The response to the training Sharon provided was remarkable. I have offered this conference with a variety of keynote speakers for 12 years and have never had such a positive response to a keynote speaker. I began receiving calls the morning after the conference from individual educators who had already been able to successfully use Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ skills with students, parents, co-workers and in their private lives. Everyone who called asked if I could bring Sharon back to next year's conference for a follow-up presentation.

Gayl Bowser, Oregon State Coordinator, Regional Services for Students with Severe Orthopedic Impairments, Douglas County ESD, Roseburg, OR

Sharon worked with a wide age range of children, including pre-school, third-, and sixth-grade classrooms, as well as our peer conflict managers. Through providing role-plays, many children were able to take what they learned at use it at home and/or with other students in school immediately. By the next week they reported many examples of success in getting out of power struggles with other kids, including setting effective limits with much older siblings who were engaging in behaviors such as teasing and/or hitting them. Sharon took each student's response seriously and genuinely engaged the children at their own level in a way that was spontaneous and sensitive to their questions and concerns. I would highly recommend Sharon's training and further believe that learning non-defensive communication should be a part of every school's curriculum.

Mary Lynn Cummings, Counselor, O'Hara Grade School, Eugene, OR

Sharon was our Keynote Speaker for our first Teen Summit at Delta Junior and Senior High School. She was received with respect as she role-modeled, told stories and dialogued with the students. I think the kids thought Sharon was pretty cool. They really got a kick out of role-playing with her. There was a lot of laughter and fun in this learning. We were able to break up into workshops, both for the student council and other students, which added even more benefit as the students were able to practice how to handle real conflicts. Sharon met with the upper elementary students where she herself was inspired by the importance of reaching the youth early. Sharon also provided training for teachers and parents in our school district. Sharon Ellison's ability to reach the people of Delta Junction was inspiring.

Ruby Hollembaek, Safe Schools Coordinator, Delta Junction, AK

School-Based Therapists:

Sharon Ellison is a remarkable teacher in the field of communications. Her innovative approach has given both teachers and school based therapists powerful tools to communicate more effectively with parents, school administrators, students, and fellow colleagues. The effectiveness of her Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication process has been readily apparent and utilized immediately by a majority of our therapists. They have found the non-defensive communication techniques especially helpful when working as a consultant/resource person to parents and teachers.

Michael Friedl, PT, PCS, (Recipient: Judy Roe Therapist of the Year Award, State of Oregon) Pediatric Clinical Specialist, Supervisor of Therapy Services, Jackson Education Service District, Medford, OR

Ms. Ellison is a skilled therapist who is able to combine interpretive feedback with skill training, role-playing, and limit-setting. She is intuitive, insightful, and supportive and is well liked by children and staff alike. Besides being a highly competent therapist, she is also an excellent staff trainer and teacher … and has a unique way of combining theory with practice.

Susan Richter, Ph.D., the Child Center, a School for Children with Severe Psychological Problems Eugene, OR

Put in Emily Chandler.


The Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication • Contact Us
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

Back to Top

Quick Links:

Newsletter Sign-Up

Books, CD's & Downloads

Calendar of Events

Training Options

Stories, Tips & More

Hear CD Excerpts

Video - YouTube

Read Articles

Hear Interviews

Contact Sharon to Schedule An Event


"Sharon Ellison is a remarkable teacher in the field of communications. Her innovative approach has given both teachers and school-based therapists powerful tools to communicate more effectively with parents, school administrators, students, and fellow colleagues. The effectiveness of her Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication process has been readily apparent and utilized immediately."

Michael Friedl, PT, PCS, (Recipient: Judy Roe Therapist of the Year Award, State of Oregon) Pediatric Clinical Specialist, Supervisor of Therapy Services, Jackson Education Service District, Medford, OR


Calendar Site Map Contact Us