This year FWSU held the second annual Professional Learning Institutes on November 20 and 21. Teachers, community partners, and consultants offered a range of 2-day institutes focused on professional learning reflective of both supervisory union and school-based goals that align with our 4 Vision-to-Action Targets: Proficiency-based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environments, and Engaged Community Partners. The following post describes just one of the 13 sessions FWSU educators could choose. Bonnie Poe, FWSU’s Prevention & Wellness Coordinator, facilitated the Institute.

Wellness Habits
Wellness Habits

FWSU teachers, nurses, and guidance counselors learned about a variety of tools and how to use them to build and support sustainable well-being for their students and themselves at one of FWSU’s 2-day professional learning institutes.

Wellness matters!

The Institute, Building a Sustainable Approach to Well-being in Schools for Teachers and Students, presented a variety of wellness practices. Not every tool and strategy presented during the 2 days was expected to be implemented by every participant; one size does not fit all — that is fine. Instead, the emphasis was placed on reflective practice: which tools did educators think would work for their classroom, individual students, and for themselves. To make this work, numerous community members and agencies share their wellness expertise with teachers through multiple presentations during November 20 – 21. After each presentation, participants were given time to reflect on why and how something they just learned about might be used with their students or themselves.

Jessica Frost, RiseVT

Jessica Frost, RiseVT Wellness Specialist, demonstrated how to use yoga in the classroom and shared how and when to use it as a calming tool to reduce stress and anxiety, helping students be more available to learn. She also gave each participant a yoga mat and yoga cards to use with students.

Nathan Wiles, master labyrinth architect

Nathan Wiles, a master labyrinth designer and builder, shared how walking a labyrinth takes practice, but over time can have a calming impact on those who choose to use it. He included numerous ideas and guidance on how and when to use the labyrinth with students. Teachers participated in walking an indoor labyrinth. One teacher shared, “I was halfway around the first circle and thought that this wasn’t working for me. However, I thought about how my students sometimes don’t want to try something. So, I reset how I was thinking and finished the labyrinth.” This session had particular meaning for GEMS participants. Last year, a team of Georgia Elementary and Middle School teachers was awarded an Innovation Grant provided by the Bay and Paul Foundation to construct a labyrinth in outdoor space at their school. 

Pam Easterday
Pam Easterday, Meditation Therapist

Pam Easterday, Meditation Therapist, gave a moving presentation entitled, “Finding the Inspiration Within Us,” which included breathing and meditation tools that can create both calm and awareness and allow the body’s own natural abilities to find balance, healing, and relaxation.

Rachael Gregory, VT Department of Health Nutritionist, addressed weight loss and fitness myths, along with suggestions for healthy snacks for both teachers and students.

Darrell Cole, a Chiropractor in Milton, provided useful advice on pain prevention and management by demonstrating techniques for being proactive in the way we sit with our electronic devices, as well as how we sleep–did you know sleeping on your stomach is the worst way to sleep? He included advice on the proper use of pillows when we sleep. And, if your backpack or purse weighs more than 5 pounds, not good!

Shannon Wright, Massage Therapist, provided massages to those that felt comfortable having massages–an important reminder that our ideas of wellness are very personal. Remember: One size does not fit all — and that’s okay!

New Blood Pressure Categories
Revised blood pressure guidelines published by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Merideth Plumpton, Vermont Department of Health Nurse emphasized the importance of adults seeing their doctors and dentists for recommended health visits and immunizations. She also shared the very recent blood pressure guidelines, which will surprise many people who thought they once had normal blood pressure.

The two-day Institute concluded with Samantha Thomas from Northwestern Counseling and Support Services providing connections between emotional and physical health and the importance of making those connections with and for each of our students and ourselves.

As planned, participants experienced new learning opportunities to develop tools to create an engaged, safe, supported, healthy, and academically resilient classroom. We are so grateful to our community partners who generously shared their expertise in building new habits, meditation, stress management, yoga, nutrition, and personal health and how their areas can be integrated into FWSU classroom routines.

Vermont Department of Health
Photo by Vermont Department of Health

Here is what participants had to say about their experiences:

  • “This was a great couple of days.  This was a really nice opportunity to think about the importance of mindfulness, health, and overall wellness!”
  • “I’ve so enjoyed learning new info that applies not just to my kids but also to me.”
  • “I found today to be very useful!”
  • “This was a very useful day.  I enjoyed hearing from different speakers, rather than just one.  It gave the day more variety.”
  • “The format of this session is so welcome at this time of year.  It is a stressful period for many between holidays and school obligations like conferences and report cards.”
  • “The variety:  We sat, we stood.  We listened and spoke.  I appreciated the diversity in presenters, too.  Finally, modeling reflection every turn of the way should make us self-aware.”
  • “I enjoyed walking the labyrinth.  The history of the labyrinth was interesting to learn.  I am interested in making/getting finger labyrinths for my students to use in the classroom.”
  •  “Loved practicality of Sam [Samantha Thomas].”

 And of course, everyone who had a massage loved it!

  •  “I really enjoyed Rise VT — we were involved and active — she had a lot of practical ideas that could be easily implemented into the classroom.  I loved the free goodies too.”
  •  “I loved learning about using yoga in the classroom.”
  •  “I really liked Rachael Gregory’s presentation and Jessica Frost.  All presentations that made me stop and think.”

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