Improving Teacher Health and Wellness through Fit to Learn
January 19, 2017 | Written By: Healthy Schools Campaign
The start of a new year is a great time to reassess goals and set expectations—and teachers are no exception to that! As part of our Fit to Learn professional development program, teachers set health and wellness goals for themselves and their students.
Some of the goals Fit to Learn participants have set for themselves include: weight loss, better eating habits, increasing water consumption and increasing physical activity. So far this school year, we’ve had 96 participants in our program, and 100 percent of those surveyed said that their knowledge about nutrition increased since participating in Fit to Learn. That knowledge can go a long way in helping teachers meet their goals!
The school environment is so important when it comes to promoting student health and wellness but also the health and wellness of teachers and staff. Fit to Learn participants have helped promote staff wellness at their schools through offering healthy food at staff meetings as well as offering healthy cooking classes for both staff and teachers.
Healthy working environments are important for teacher retention and teacher productivity. And there is a direct link between the well-being of teachers and the educational outcomes of their students. According to a recent report from Pennsylvania State University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “elementary school teachers who have greater stress and show more symptoms of depression create classroom environments that are less conducive to learning, which leads to poor academic performance among students.” Effects of teacher stress range from lower scores on math tests to more behavior problems and lower levels of social adjustment and student engagement.
The report also outlined several proven interventions and programs to reduce teacher stress and ensure that school environments are healthier for both teachers and students. These include such programs as mentoring, staff wellness and mindfulness programs. Here are some other ways teachers and staff can help promote staff wellness:
- Teachers can participate in and lead short physical activity breaks that integrate physical activity into any moment of the school day—right alongside their students!
- Teachers can start a walking program and keep a walking log to help them walk their way to better health by keeping track of progress.
- Teachers can make-over their staff break room to stock healthy snacks and water stations where they can re-energize in a healthy way.
- Teachers can launch a salad club with their co-workers by having everyone bring a favorite salad ingredient. They just make sure someone brings a mix of lettuces and a protein.