From Reindeer Runs to Latin Dance, How Trumbull School Staff Are Staying Fit

March 28, 2013

Today we’re spotlighting how Trumbull School is encouraging staff to take the lead on wellness.

When Nick Zayas, the Physical Education teacher at Trumbull Elementary School in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, started receiving emails declaring him the school’s Wellness Champion, he wasn’t sure what that meant. But after speaking with the principal and reading up on Trumbull’s wellness survey responses, he knew he needed to and wanted to make some changes. So he got the ball rolling right away–he formed a wellness team and began generating ideas about how to promote wellness at the school. He decided one way to foster a culture of wellness at Trumbull would be to get the staff involved.

At first, Zayas and his wellness team thought of doing a student wellness activity every month. But much of Trumbull’s staff is new to the school, so they decided to implement staff wellness activities to get to know each other and “so the kids could see us in a different light.” At the end of next year, he says, he hopes to have students join their teachers in these activities.

The first activity Zayas created was a two-mile “reindeer run”, a short course down to Lake Michigan and back. The turnout was a little bit smaller than expected: “We had that nice warm pocket in December,” he explains. “But then the week that we did it was the coldest week of the year, so we had maybe six people show up and do the run.”

Through that first experience, Zayas learned a lot about promoting and encouraging fitness activities. He knew some of his fellow staff members, as novices to regular running, could be reluctant to try an activity that seemed to be for experienced runners. So he and his wellness team have been trying to create activities for their colleagues at all fitness levels.

Zayas’ efforts have picked up a lot since then. Teachers are finding new ways to bring wellness to staff and students. A small group does a regular 30-minute stair climb around the school. One of his favorite examples is the new third-grade teacher, Mr. Soto, who has been offering Latin dance lessons to his students during recess. Now, he offers lessons to the teachers as well. “That really took on a life of its own,” Zayas says. 

For more competitive staff members, the teachers have organized a staff volleyball game. Zayas says this was the ideal activity, as it was welcoming for players of all fitness and skill levels, and it was indoors, so it didn’t require anyone to brave the elements during February in Chicago. “It was a good mix of people,” Zayas says. “About half were new teachers, and it was cool to see them in a different light.” After the game, another teacher approached him and suggested a staff floor hockey game. The students are playing floor hockey in P.E. right now at Trumbull, so not only would the staff have a fun activity for which the equipment is already readily available, but teachers could participate with their students and create a culture of wellness at Trumbull.

And Zayas and his fellow teachers have plans of expanding the staff wellness program to other schools. He has been keeping in touch with the P.E. teacher at nearby Peirce Elementary School about putting together a basketball game in which the staffs from both schools compete as students watch and cheer on their teachers. “It’s schools in the community working together to do things,” he says. “You have that sense of school pride. I want my Trumbull teachers to be competitive when they play against Peirce teachers. It has more energy that way.”

He also wants to invite more of the community into the activities, among them a staff-versus-student softball game, as well as activities where students and their families can participate along with their teachers.

We at HSC applaud Zayas and the other teachers at Trumbull for creating a community of wellness!