Teacher wellness programs received positively

March 26, 2019 — by Mathew Luo and Aaria Thomas

Saddled with dozens of essays and quizzes to grade, recommendation letters to juggle and lessons to plan, teachers can feel just as fatigued and overwhelmed as their students.

The teacher wellness programs, introduced last fall, were designed to combat burnout and promote closeness among faculty and staff. Although this program is quite experimental, it has already paid its dividends, assistant principal Brian Safine said.

The programs are organized by the District Wellness Committee that includes 12 district employees, but the sessions themselves are run by teachers. The committee brainstorms ideas, then reaches out to teachers to find willing hosts.

Programs vary from educational presentations to fitness workouts. For example, a recent teacher wellness program on March 5 included a cooking demonstration for healthy eating presented by guidance counselor Alinna Satake, a session on financial literacy conducted by special education teacher Brian Elliott and librarian Kevin Heyman and a tour of historical spots in Saratoga led by history teacher Matthew Torrens.

“The programs are in breakout sessions where staff members can choose which topic they want to learn about,” Safine said. “I’ve been to the financial literacy presentation and  the healthy cooking session, and found both to be very valuable.”

Science teacher Kristofer Orre, who is on a special assignment to help the district’s teachers for the next two years, helped with setting up the technology and Canvas support on the last wellness day on March 5 and hosted a CrossFit workout design session on the same day in the weight room.

“We created a workout, I taught them how to scale or modify the movements to their ability, and then we did the workout,” Orre said. “The staff could use some of the CrossFit methodology to design their own workouts that would fit within a short amount of time, but also give them good results.”

The school faculty has one out of four annual after-school wellness days left, but the “on-site wellness” subcommittee is organizing more activities, according to assistant principal Kerry Mohnike, who chairs the committee. These activities include a staff talent show planned for this May.

The committee is not currently planning to expand their activities to Redwood Middle School or the elementary schools. However, Mohnike said that they are open to collaboration in the future.

According to Safine, the teacher wellness programs have been positively received by teachers. Not only do the programs provide time for teachers to take care of themselves, but they also provide a space for teachers to share their expertise with each other, he said.

“Educators are in the business of caring for others,” Safine said. “We enjoy being around young people and we enjoy caring for young people. But [sometimes] we’re not very good at taking care of ourselves. So in one sentence, these sessions have allowed us time after school to take care of ourselves, which we often overlook during the regular business of running a school.”