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New program emerges in Newark that helps teachers deal with stress and anxiety

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NEWARK, N.J. — With students back in school, there’s a lot of focus on their mental health.

Well, a local educator has created a program in Newark to help teachers who are often overlooked when it comes to dealing with their stress and anxiety.

CBS2’s Cindy Hsu has more on how the program is helping to heal.

Teaching is one of the toughest jobs around. Just ask Patrick Bartheleny, a ninth grade English teacher at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy.

“I think that everyone can tell you that teaching is draining, right? You put a lot of time and energy into it and it’s a lot of mental capacity being poured into your students and the work. So the past two years it’s really taken a toll on myself and I’ve seen on others in the building as well,” Bartheleny said.

A lot of teachers burn out and end up quitting, so former special education teacher Dr. Wenimo Okoya created the Healing Schools Project last year.

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It’s a program that focuses on the well being and mental health of teachers.

Hsu watched as they took part in what’s called a healing circle, where teachers can connect with each other, sharing their concerns and coming up with solutions. The program also includes guided meditation and workshops creating community care so teachers feel supported.

“Self care puts a lot of the onus on the individual and it doesn’t consider the context that people are living in. Self care in some places requires a lot of privilege, a lot of power, a lot of access, but with community care it only requires you to me, person to person,” Okoya said.

Sharmaine Lewis is school leader at KIPPS Academy.

“I love teachers. I wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old, and now in my current role I know my job is to take care of teachers so they can take care of our students,” Lewis said.

The program is customized depending on what teachers need.

“Last year, I had a lot of town halls in person with my staff. I did surveys with my staff and we decided our priority would be reigniting our love for teaching and learning,” Lewis said.

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So far, the Healing Schools Project has reached 400 educators and school leaders. Dr. Okoya says it’s working.

“About 75 percent of participants last year said that they felt more connected to their colleagues. Whereas in schools across the country, everyone was saying that they felt disconnected, and we only see that number increasing, and 80 percent of the teachers in that school also said that if they did more work like this they’d be more willing to stay,” Okoya said.

They say the bottom line is that healed teachers help heal students.

Leaders of the Healing Schools Project are hoping to reach 90 schools and 4,500 teachers by 2025.

Source: CBS

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