Hoopeston teachers learning to take care of students by taking care of selves

Hoopeston teachers learning to take care of students by taking care of selves

HOOPESTON — Hoopeston Area schools staff are gearing up to spend the next nine-and-a-half months taking care of their students by learning how to take care of themselves.

Over the next two weeks, all 220 staff members will go through a one-day wellness and self-care training program, based on "The Happiness Advantage" by Shawn Achor.

"You can't give from an empty well," Superintendent Suzi Hesser said. "We need to make sure our buckets are full, so we're able to take care of our students and others around us."

The training was made possible through the district's partnership with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which was awarded a seven-year GEAR UP grant aimed at improving post-secondary outcomes for students.

"We not only want to help our students graduate," Hesser said, "but we also want to help them develop a plan of action, so they can be successful after they leave high school."

Under the partnership, Hesser said Hoopeston will receive $35,000 a year over the next seven years to pay the salary of a social worker.

The new social worker will be placed at the middle school, allowing the district to have one dedicated social worker at each building. Previously, one social worker split time at the high school and middle school, and the social worker at John Greer Elementary also helped out at the middle school.

The grant also allowed 10 staffers to attend a week-long seminar at Harvard University in June, aimed at improving post-secondary outcomes for students.

"We were absolutely thrilled to be there," Hesser said, adding that the participants had a chance to learn about research-based methods on differentiated instruction, interventions, programming gaps, family engagement and partnerships with other districts, among other things, from educational leaders throughout the country.

Hesser said ISAC officials suggested offering "The Happiness Advantage" training as one more way to further enhance what the district is doing to create a trauma-informed culture. That's putting practices into place that recognize how trauma experienced by children can affect their learning, behavior and relationships at school and create an environment where they feel safe to learn.

"One of the five keys to trauma-informed care is making sure we educators have a plan for taking care of ourselves," Hesser said.

Hesser said the ISAC grant paid to train curriculum coordinator Emily Brown, who is training the rest of the staff. The training, used by Fortune 500 companies, focuses on seven research-based principles aimed at helping people retrain their brain to be positive, so they can increase their cognitive abilities, overcome challenges, improve their productivity and work better in a team, among other things.

"The idea is to spark a culture of positivity, happiness and success," Hesser said. "Happiness is contagious. We have to be intentional in how we prepare ourselves emotionally to teach and work with kids, and this is an opportunity to do that."

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