Q&A: Wellness for Educators
This Nonprofit Works to Support the Mental, Physical, Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Educators
Stress, burnout, and mental health concerns are all issues that many educators across the U.S. have faced. COVID amplified these issues even more. As an educator, Kathryn Kennedy experienced them all firsthand. She knew she wasn’t the only one feeling it. Born out of a desire and immediate need for a solution to the rising stress levels in education, Wellness for Educators works to support educators through whole-school, research-based, trauma- and equity-informed, somatic (mind-body) education, practices, and strategies for mental, physical, social, and emotional health and wellbeing.
You founded Wellness for Educators, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in 2018. Kathryn, you are an educational researcher and practitioner focusing on online and digital learning. How did you bridge the gap to start Wellness for Educators?
That’s a really great question, and most people wonder how I got here. I’m a qualitative researcher, and over the last 20 years, I’ve talked to thousands of educators about their work in the field. My primary focus is online and digital learning, but in the midst of all of my projects, which varied in focus, an underlying theme was educator burnout, stress, and overwhelm. And as a human being, you can only hear that so much and then you’re really motivated to do something about it. At the point when I could do something about it, I was also jumping into education consulting. Simultaneously, I knew I wanted to bring together my love for education, mental health and wellbeing. It also helped that I was on my own personal mental health and wellbeing journey.
In 2020, when the pandemic hit, you saw a dire need to expand your services. How has your work with educators and schools changed since schools had to shift online due to the pandemic? How has your digital content helped during the crisis?
Our services have been mostly online since we started and continue to be for the most part. We feel we can serve more people through online modalities. The one thing that did change a bit was some of the conference work we do, which ended up shifting online as well. Our digital content has really supported the educators we’ve engaged with by sharing the importance of the mind-body connection in the healing process and how that healing process is vitally important to the work we do in teaching, leading, and learning spaces.
From the beginning, Wellness for Educators utilized 21st century tools and interactive resources to equip educators with tools to help them manage, mitigate, and alleviate stress and burnout. Tell us more about these resources and how educators have been able to use them.
The first resource we started with was a free wellness library, which is still available today on our website. It is filled with over 100, 3-5 minute videos and audio files to support mind-body healing from prolonged stress and trauma. The other tools include microcourses, which are an hour long, perfect for the busy educator. Currently we have two available online, but we have several dozen more that we are currently piloting in our programming that should be live by the summer! This year, we’re going to start a membership option that will include just-in-time support through a video library and online forums.
What have you found to be your most popular course/class?
Our most popular courses have been those that are part of the leadership series, which is focused on whole school wellness. These are the courses that are currently in the pilot phase. We’ll be making those live for others later this spring! As we know from our research and practice, educator wellness is not an individual issue. There are so many contributing factors that support as well as negatively affect educator wellness. We’re working to affect change.
Since your founding, how has Wellness for Educators grown? What are your goals for the future?
That’s a great question, and I think the key to expanding has been and continues to be the partnerships we have with other organizations and individuals who are sharing their expertise in our programming and beyond. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without those vital partnerships and collaborations, and we are grateful for them! One of our major goals for the very near future is to expand to a membership-based plan so that educators can engage with content more while building a supportive community.
Tell us about your partnership with CourseArc. How has CourseArc played a role in your ability to support students and educators?
CourseArc is one of those partnerships and collaborations that has helped us expand our work! The educators who are taking our micro courses appreciate the platform and its capabilities. We especially love that you focus on accessibility, and the CourseArc team has been so supportive of our work as we have continued to grow. Thank you!
How do you hope to continue to engage audiences with your digital resources?
We are continuing to build out micro courses, as we partner with more organizations and individuals who are passionate about supporting educator wellness, whole school wellness, and community wellness. We also have plans to host summits with other organizations. One that is coming up soon is the Equity in Wellness Summit, which will take place online from April 5-7. That next big phase is the membership-based plan, and the micro courses will be playing a role in that for sure! We also have our podcast that focuses on community discussions called roundtables as well as the occasional webinar and live discussion to keep a finger on the pulse of educators’ needs. I also am grateful to have a book coming out called The Mind-Body Connection for Educators: Intentional Movement, so I’ll be adding micro courses and possibly some online book studies for that! Anyone interested in the work we do can connect with us via our website – well4edu.org – and you can sign up for our newsletter there as well!
What advice would you give to other organizations seeking to develop online content?
Work with people who are passionate about centering humanity in course builds. As someone who continues to have a foot in the online / digital learning space through my consulting firm Consult4Ed Group, our team’s main focus when building and/or designing a build is to be intentional about making the learning meaningful and designing with the user experience in mind. We also prioritize human elements in our builds, such as collaboration, interaction, communication, and support.
Visit Wellness for Educators for more information on Kathryn’s upcoming book, events and resources for tips on whole-mind-body practices for educators.
CourseArc, a content authoring and management system (CAMS) was built to support organizations as they facilitate the collaborative creation of engaging and accessible online learning. Check out our resource site to see how we can help your team. Check back to our blog and social media feeds for additional resources and case studies on how our clients are using CourseArc to move their classrooms online.
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