Employee Wellness focuses on the health and well-being of school staff, including teachers, administrators, custodial, nutrition services, and support staff. Teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in the US. According to a national survey, nearly half (46%) of teachers report high daily stress- tied with nurses and higher than physicians.[1] High stress at work affects teachers’ physical health, is linked to poor teacher and student performance, lack of engagement with work, and contributes to higher burnout and turnover. There are a number of sources of stress for teachers and school staff, but vicarious trauma- a secondary trauma that occurs when people are exposed to a number of experiences of trauma through their work- is a central issue. As teachers and school staff work to support students who experience mental health challenges, trouble at home, or trauma, their brains experience many of the same physiological symptoms of trauma as their students’ do: increased stress hormones and increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiration.

Effective Practices

  • Implement school workplace wellness policies and programs. For example, research shows that teachers who participate in stress management programs report better physical and mental health as well as improvements in quality of teaching.[2] [3]

  • Implement school-wide SEL program and tiered approaches to student supports.  Research has found that teachers trained and supported in implementing SEL programs have lower job-related anxiety and depression,[4] are more engaged,[5] and have greater perceived job control.[6] Teachers in schools implementing multi-tiered approaches such as schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) also reported lower levels of job-related burnout and higher efficacy.[7]

  • Facilitate a sense of community among teacher colleagues by providing formal opportunities—and time—for teachers to talk through and process difficult events. These community platforms may include designated leaders or mentor teachers who provide support for other classroom teachers. Coping skills such as mindfulness will improve both teacher wellness and student outcomes.[8]

 Resources

StorIEs

OEA Choice Trust - Inspiring Schools To Create Healthy Workplaces For All Staff

OEA Choice Trust is the only organization solely dedicated to workplace wellness for all Oregon public school employees. We believe that no matter their role, all school employees should have the support they need to be physically, mentally and emotionally well.  Healthy worksites reduce employees’ stress, boost energy and morale, and promote better balance in life – a win for teachers, staff, administrators and students.

More and more, education leaders see burnout, chronic stress and educator turnover as critical challenges facing the profession as a whole. Educators face pressures from a number of areas. They are balancing the unique needs of each student while meeting assessment and achievement goals set at the state and national levels.

To this end, OEA Choice Trust has focused on building resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” in the face of adversity. Fostering well-being and resilience both at the individual and organizational level is imperative in creating a positive, supportive environment where educators, students and families are engaged and work together to meet the daily demands of education.

OEA Choice Trust offers two types of grants to support Oregon School Employee Wellness programs. The first is a 3-5 year School Employee Wellness Grant. The second is Mini Grants, a year-long grant that can be used to sustain an established SEW program. School communities across the state have leveraged these resources, as well as technical assistance and training from OEA Choice Trust, to improve the resiliency and well-being of school employees. Find grantee success stories here.

For more information: visit OEA Choice Trust to learn more and access a resources and tools to promote the health, well-being and resilience of school employees

Supporting Employee Health in San Diego Unified School District

San Diego Unified School District is the second largest district in California, serving over 100,000 students and 10,000 employees. The district aligns its work with the Whole School Whole Community Whole Child Model because it provides a clear framework, puts students at the center and aligns with the School Boards vision of having quality schools in every neighborhood that support the needs of the whole child. The District Wellness Policy is aligned to the WSCC Model, including goals and objectives for each of the 10 component areas

One area of focus has been on employee wellness. Over the past three years, the District has been working to help staff better understand the resources and benefits available to them through the California Schools Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA). When Kate McDevitt, Wellness Supervisor for the District started her role over three years ago, she was amazed at the benefits package. “100% of benefits are covered for our employees, their spouse and their dependents. There are incredible staff health resources, classes and services that can be brought out to the school site free of charge, such as wellness workshops, fitness classes, and even mental health supports. But when I first arrived to the district many employees were unaware of VEBA and its offerings, and so there was a disconnect we needed to address.”

Since then, a robust infrastructure has been established to support health and well-being for employees across the district.  This includes having a District Wellness Council with a sub-committee for Employee Wellness, a designated Wellness Coordinator at every school and central office, as well as five high school Wellness Centers that serves as a bridge to connect students and families to the social supports they need. More than 175 San Diego Unified wellness coordinators receive annual training on wellness tools and resources available to students, staff and families. “We have CA Schools VEBA present monthly at our Employee Wellness Sub-committee meetings and annually at our Wellness Institutes on all of the health & wellness onsite offerings available to staff.  Our Wellness Coordinators then work with VEBA to identify specific employee wellness needs and create ongoing opportunities to support them. And, after 3 years, we have completely flipped that earlier disconnect on its head. Now, there are hundreds of scheduled employee wellness activities being provided to our district staff, ranging from fitness classes to health education on mental health and stress management!”

Information provided by Kate McDevitt, Wellness Supervisor, San Diego Unified School District.

For more information: contact wellness@sandi.net


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[1] Gallup (2014). State of American Schools.

[2] Roeser, R.W. (2014). The emergence of mindfulness-based interventions in educational settings. Motivational Interventions: Advances in Motivation and Achievement, 18, 379-419.

[3] Weare, K. (2014). Evidence for Mindfulness: Impacts on the Wellbeing and Performance of School Staff.

[4] Tyson, O., Roberts, C.M., & Kane, R. (2009). Can implementation of a resilience program for primary school children enhance the mental health of teachers? Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 19, 116–130.

[5] Abry, T., Rimm-Kaufman, S.E., Larsen, R.A., & Brewer, A.J. (2013). The influence of fidelity of implementation on teacher–student interaction quality in the context of a randomized controlled trial of the Responsive Classroom approach. Journal of School Psychology, 51, 437–453.

[6] Zhai, F., Raver, C.C., & Li-Grining, C. (2011). Classroom-based interventions and teachers’ perceived job stressors and confidence: Evidence from a randomized trial in Head Start settings. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26, 442– 452.

[7] Ross, S.W., Romer, N., & Horner, R.H. (2012). Teacher well-being and the implementation of school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 14, 118–128

[8] School Mental Health Toolkit. Mental Health Colorado. Available https://www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/resources/school/