Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Working on Wellness

A little over a year ago, members of the Beaver Dam Unified School District expressed a desire to find ways to enhance the overall wellness of the staff.  A district Key Performance Objective (KPO) grew from this idea, and for the past year, a committee of certified staff, administrators, support staff, and board members have been researching and implementing strategies to improve employee wellness.  

The committee began its work by researching healthy living and reading the book Blue Zones:  Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, by Dan Buettner. In the book, he describes the keys to longevity as the following: lifestyle, diet, outlook, and stress-coping practices.  Leaning on this information, the Wellness Committee developed and implemented a staff-wellness program focusing on strategies in the following three key areas:  workspaces/environment, public relations/communication, and community resources.

Staff were introduced to the Wellness Program by committee members at the beginning of the school year.  A Wellness webpage is currently available on the district website to communicate initiatives and share information.  Staff is encouraged to take walking breaks, use stand-up desks, rearrange workspaces, collaborate with colleagues, and increase healthy options in vending and break-rooms. Walking routes at each district building are mapped.  The committee continues to reach out to community resources in order to offer health screenings and informational sessions on topics such as financial wellness and mindfulness.  Reflecting on the  importance of implementing wellness strategies Sarah McClanathan, Lincoln teacher,  notes, “being healthy isn't a fad or trend; it's a lifestyle.”

As interest has grown, individual buildings have also created their own wellness committees.  These groups implement strategies such as fitness classes, walking groups, healthy lunch days, and scheduled-social activities. A district-wide walking challenge was recently launched encouraging teams to “walk” to Florida. Fitness classes are open to all staff and are held at the high school each week.  Concurrently, the middle school implemented a “positivity wall” and redecorated the staff workroom.  Washington School staff fill a fruit infused water cooler daily for staff,  and Prairie View school staff get together to exercise after school.  

When asked about the impact of the wellness programs, Katie Schwartz, BDMS teacher, stated: “Our building wellness challenges have offered staff opportunities to participate in positive and engaging dialogue and activities that are not normally part of our daily routines. It's a refreshing change as we are focusing on being well in multiple ways, while supporting and challenging each other to be better each and every day. Wellness has the ability to transcend to our personal and professional lives. This makes the whole community stronger!

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