More and more, school employees find themselves stretched thin by heavy workloads, lack of time and resources and growing emotional, social and physical health needs of the students and families. The result, not surprisingly, is an unprecedented amount of chronic stress in the educational workplace, and that stress comes with great costs. Not only does the physical health of school employees suffer as a result, but their emotional, social, and spiritual well-being takes a significant toll.  Schools themselves also face higher costs: sick days, paying for substitutes, staff turnover and more. All this ultimately impacts the teaching and learning environment.

How can we address all this chronic stress when there doesn’t seem to be enough time to use the restroom, take a quiet moment, or eat lunch sitting down? OEA Choice Trust has embraced a holistic health, well-being and resilience model that is grounded in prominent research and evidence based practices. This approach acknowledges the dynamic interaction between individuals and the places where they live, work and play. Creating a workplace culture that values and prioritizes employee health, well-being and resilience is the cornerstone of healthy, compassionate school communities because employees are better able to put health-promoting behaviors and resilience skills into action when workplace practices and social norms create opportunities to be healthy, safe, supported, engaged and challenged.

Adopting this holistic approach nurtures an environment where all educators and staff are supported and fully engaged, where students are learning at their highest levels every day. The resiliency that comes with employee health and well-being empowers school staff, students and entire organizations to not only endure challenges and stress, but to overcome them and emerge stronger and better on the other side.

Through grant awards, technical support, and the development and dissemination of resources, OEA Choice Trust aims to realize its vision:  that all Oregon public school employees are healthy, resilient, and engaged as champions for healthy school environments and vital communities.

One way the Trust supports grantees is by inviting them to an annual grantee meeting in Eugene. The event is a wonderful opportunity to receive quality professional development and build a network of colleagues for inspiration and support. On October 19, 2017, 92 attendees representing 33 districts from across Oregon joined us at Lane Community College. It was with great joy that Dr. Leora Wolf-Prusan joined us to deliver an interactive training that examined the impact of chronic stress, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout on all school employees. She inspired us to continue creating cultures of compassion and well-being for all school employees. Dr. Wolf-Prusan generously shared resources with us to deepen our understanding about how to encourage practices of self-care and promote staff well-being strategies that can prevent and reduce the impact of chronic stress.

Use the resources below to learn more: