Tips For Teachers with a Type 1 Elementary Student


As a type 1 diabetic myself, diabetes is always on my mind all day, everyday. As a teacher this means of course diabetes doesn’t stop when I’m at school. There have been plenty of times during the school day when I’ve had to hurriedly eat peanut butter crackers in between one-on-one reading, check my blood sugar at my desk, or laugh at my pump beeping during calendar time. My one and only pump failure also happened while I was in the middle of teaching a lesson.

I’ve yet to have a type 1 diabetes (T1D) student in my classroom, however, I often think about what it would be like if I did. For instance, our school celebrated Christmas with a school wide Polar Express day in December. The kids wore pajamas to school, we watched the movie and had treats afterwards. As I was passing out the snacks I kept thinking to myself how I’m so thankful none of my kids have to deal with T1D today. Cookies, hot chocolate (made with chocolate milk) and marshmallows—I didn’t want to think about the total carbs in all of this. IF one of my students had been a type 1 diabetic I would have consulted the parent in advance to see if they wanted me to count the carbs OR if they’d rather have an alternative snack. Either way, I would have made sure they didn’t miss out on the fun!

Here are some helpful tips for teachers with a Type 1 student:

  • Notify parents of a change in schedule. Last minute changes happen all the time at school. Gym times get changed, etc. T1D’s will need to take these changes into consideration.
  • If a student isn’t acting like themselves have their blood glucose (BG) checked.
  • Anything and everything affects blood glucose levels. Know that a student could be a cool 100 at their finger check, but drop to 50 within minutes. Students may experience this after P.E. or recess. You may need to work with parents who may want to adjust basal rates for these specific parts of the day.
  • Of course as T1Ds we can eat anything we want, we just have to know how to cover our carbs with insulin. If a student brings in cupcakes for a birthday do not exclude your student with T1D. Come up with a plan with the T1 parent at the beginning of the year deciding what to do when this occasion occurs. If the cupcakes brought in do not have the carb count on the packaging, a good idea is to keep a special treat for the student to receive during this time.
  • If the treat is coming from you (such as goldfish or candy hearts as math manipulatives, etc.) always be sure to have the carb count ready so that when you say, “Now you may eat it!” T1D’s can enjoy as well!
  • Educate the rest of the class on T1D.  Or even better, allow the student do the teaching. Help your class understand what an insulin pump is, and why a T1D might need an unexpected snack during the day.
  • Be prepared for field trips. Bring back up snacks for lows. A good idea is for the T1D to keep an emergency kit in the classroom with low supplies and other needed supplies. This can also be taken on field trips.
  • T1D’s can do everything anyone else can do, plus more!


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Read School, Challenges + Questions about T1D by Samuel Ruby, aged 10.

WRITTEN BY Brittany Compston, POSTED 08/09/15, UPDATED 09/18/22

Brittany is a 25 year old kindergarten teacher from Ashland, Kentucky and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2014. She has a bachelors degree in Elementary Education from the University of Kentucky (Go Cats!) and is married to her husband Travis, who she has been with since they were 17. They has a dog, Lola, who is their fur baby who still doesn't know she's actually a dog. Brittany loves baking, summer evenings, all things yellow, football and running. She loves a challenge and trying new things, and this year she started a new hobby of running Spartan races and thinks it's now safe to say she is addicted! Brittany's favorite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson reads: "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." She feels like she started living like this after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Brittany takes it as life is going to throw many wonderful and crazy things our way, but the only thing that matters is how strong a fight we have inside to put up against it!