OEA Choice Trust is excited to announce another spring School Employee Wellness (SEW) Grant opportunity! School Employee Wellness Grants can help eligible K-12 districts, ESDs and community colleges to grow, develop and sustain employee wellness programs.
Is it possible to start a School Employee Wellness program if staff are working remotely?
There are many changes and new challenges this school year, and you might be unsure how to start a wellness program if you can’t physically gather to plan and host events. However, creating wellness opportunities that can be done virtually and still meet staff needs and interests is possible! OEA Choice Trust grantees shared some ideas:
- Host wellness challenges – walking, hydration, Wellness Bingo, random acts of kindness, gratitude
- Have a virtual trivia night through Zoom or Google Hangouts
- Provide fitness classes through Zoom
- Purchase outdoor recreation equipment such as paddleboards, snowshoes or cross-country skis for staff use
- Host virtual or socially distanced wellness workshops or professional development opportunities focused on elements of employee well-being
- Hold virtual cooking activities together with porch drop offs of supplies
- Drop off or mailing healthy snacks and care packages to staff; provide healthy snacks for staff working in school buildings
- Partner with local businesses such as farm stands, massage practices and restaurants to provide gift cards for staff
What does success look like?
Many districts, ESDs and community colleges have created staff-driven, sustainable programs. Because the OEA Choice Trust grant program is not prescriptive, success looks different for each grantee!
David Douglas School District focused on nurturing employee wellness district wide. At the start, some buildings had stronger wellness efforts than others, so in addition to growing overall participation, the David Douglas wellness team focused on making sure each building had wellness opportunities that were relevant to its staff. The wellness team also expanded the program from focusing on physical well-being to include emotional well-being, mental health and stress reduction.
Over the years, the wellness team successfully gained and sustained leadership support, hosted many wellness challenges that fit different work schedules and partnered with the high school culinary arts program to provide healthy meals for staff.
One of Tillamook School District’s main goals when applying for a SEW Grant was to combat isolation, create a deeper sense of community among staff and increase staff retention. One way they accomplished this was to include veteran teachers in their mentoring program. More experienced educators were able to create connections with new staff and focus on their well-being. This program, called Wellness Partners, helps to create a support network for employees.
Like David Douglas School District, Tillamook School District has shifted its wellness program from focusing on physical well-being to include social, emotional and mental well-being opportunities. With strong support from the superintendent, the program has successfully become a key part of how the district operates.
Willamette ESD serves 21 school districts, so its staff are dispersed, and their workdays can look very different. With annual wellness kickoff events, the development of a wellness newsletter, 20 minutes of paid wellness time per week and creation of wellness rooms for rest and relaxation, the program grew and expanded each year. The Willamette ESD wellness team also focused on adding one “pillar” of wellness each year, starting with physical well-being.
Walking challenges are one strategy used by the wellness team to engage staff at all worksites. Arts and craft nights have become a popular way for staff to boost social and emotional well-being; past projects have included painting signs for display at home and group paint nights. Administrators attend healthy potlucks to socialize with staff and express gratitude for their work. Despite significant turnover in wellness coordinators, Willamette ESD has created a strong program that continually works toward being accessible and inclusive of all its employees.
What types of support are available for developing a School Employee Wellness program?
In addition to grant funds, there are other resources provided by OEA Choice Trust to help you and your organization develop a strong, sustainable program.
- The OEA Choice Trust website has tools based in best practice that can help you plan and implement a school employee wellness program.
- Grant recipients are assigned a liaison, an OEA Choice Trust staff member, who can support you and your wellness teams with developing a sustainable staff-driven wellness program, collecting data on your program and with meeting grant reporting requirements.
- Grantees also receive Walker Tracker, an electronic platform and app for hosting walking challenges, as a benefit.
- Grantees receive professional development through Journey to Wellness, a grantee-only meeting dedicated to professional development and networking. You can view this year’s keynote presentation, Crushing Stigma and Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces.
- Grantees are also invited to virtual discussions to connect with other grantees and share ideas, strategies and successes.
Applying for a School Employee Wellness Grant
To download the SEW Grant application:
- Visit the School Employee Wellness Grant page
- Click on the Download the Application button
- Fill out the digital form with your information and click Submit
- Download the SEW Grant Application and the Scoring Rubric
If you have questions about the SEW Grant or the application, please contact School Employee Wellness Program Manager, Asta Garmon: firstname.lastname@example.org.