Initiative helps take better care of teachers

Bellefonte Area School District  |  Posted on

At one time, the room next to school counselor Ashley Hamilton’s office at Marion-Walker Elementary School was a former vice principal’s office and then a conference room. Recently, it’s been vacant – until late in October, when Hamilton and Principal Karen Krisch turned it into what’s called a “recharge room.”

Laid out with comfy chairs, essential oils, books and magazine, adult fidgets and other amenities, the purpose of the space is to provide a place for teachers to relax – or, rather, recharge.

“Students can have a break where they can reset in my office,” Hamilton said. “We talk a lot about self care and what that entails … and one day I said to Karen, ‘What if we allow teachers to have a break?’ We do it for our kids because we want our kids to do well, but if our teachers aren’t doing well, then our kids aren’t going to thrive.”

Teachers are given a pass to use the space, at which time Hamilton or Krisch will take over their classroom during that time. The passes don’t expire.

“We say, ‘go down there; we got your class,’” Hamilton said. “They know they need it, they hear us talk about it, but they say they don’t have time to do it. Self care shouldn’t be a job or something that adds more stress, but it’s offered if they want it.”

Calling it a “mask-on-first” approach, the goal is to better care for professional staff at school that trickles down to how students are cared for.

“It’s just a nice place to recharge whether you want to crack open your laptop or just take a moment for yourself,” Krisch said. “You can shut the door and give yourself 10 minutes however you want. If you take the time for yourself then you can feel better and be more productive.”