Spreading Joy – Wellness Touchpoints for Teachers

Contributing to a Culture of Support for Our Dedicated Educators

Why We’re Spreading Joy
Since the pandemic, the number of teachers leaving the profession has risen to an all-time high and nearly half of all teachers report suffering from burnout. Heavy workloads, stagnant salaries, staff shortages, challenging personal dynamics, and long hours are among the contributing factors taking a toll on our educators’ mental well-being.

With approximately 90% of Dallas ISD budget allocated to educator salaries and facility maintenance, the remaining discretionary funding doesn’t leave much room for programs that promote teacher well-being.

Helping Students and Teacher Thrive
While United to Learn is focused on doubling literacy rates among third graders, we strongly believe in cultivating an affirming and supportive environment that helps both teachers and students thrive. So in addition to providing learning supplies, tutors, and other resources that help expand teacher capacity, our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) team works with campus principals to bring in programs that help alleviate stress and bring more joy to teachers.

These SEL Wellness Touchpoints offer a variety of options to help teachers refresh, reset, and build relationships with each other. Massage therapy, sound baths, meditation, candle-making, fitness boot camps, yoga, food deliveries, and other options, like pet therapy, make up the menu of sessions offered throughout the year at no cost to the school.

“Starting at the top and positively impacting educator well-being to combat teacher burnout creates habits that give teachers a foundation to effectively share social and emotional learning in the classroom and help drive academic outcomes,” says Claire Murphy, program coordinator for the Social and Emotional Learning team at United to Learn.

Wellness Touchpoints with Purpose and Personalization
According to the 2023 State of the American Teacher Report, three-quarters of Texas teachers said that they had access to at least one type of well-being or mental health support in 2023, but only about half of them thought that these supports were adequate.

United to Learn seeks to fill gaps like these offering at least four Wellness Touchpoints a year at Dallas ISD campuses in our 75-school network. For example, in November, United to Learn brought therapy dogs to Celestino Mauricio Soto Jr. Elementary School, an activity that is especially appealing to individuals who do not prefer group options like yoga, mindfulness, or exercise boot camps.

Fun fact: studies have shown decreased blood pressure and stress levels during therapy dog visits and note that they can increase overall emotional well-being.

Candle-making offered an opportunity for fun, camaraderie, and team building at Highland Meadows Elementary School in December.

“Having a time where we did not talk about school and just had fun making a candle was so neat and we received very positive feedback from our teachers,” said Highland Meadows principal Maria Hernandez.

Improving Climate and Culture with Social and Emotional Learning
United to Learn network schools showed top quintile rankings in Dallas ISD’s most recent Climate & Culture survey, outpacing district peers. SEL Wellness Touchpoints like these support positive campus culture and climate and give teachers a foundation in social and emotional learning when teaching Dallas ISD’s SEL curriculum to students in their classrooms.

“Wellness Touchpoints are not meant to be a one-and-done experience. The goal is to inspire educators to make prioritizing their well-being a habit,” explained Lauren Brzeski, Director of Social & Emotional Learning at United to Learn. “We hope that sharing a variety of SEL opportunities throughout the year will create a desire to continue practicing self-care in a way they find enjoyable and manageable.”

The SEL team is just one of four program teams housed at United to Learn that help educators fulfill campus objectives, including curating classroom materials, bringing in trained tutors, and accomplishing campus enhancements. Click here to learn more about our programs.