At Brewerytown school, program helps teachers take care of themselves mentally and physically

Crystal Edwards, principal of W.D. Kelley School in Brewerytown.
Photo credit Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Teachers at a Philadelphia school are tackling physical and mental health head on, and they're starting with themselves.

Crystal Edwards, principal of W.D. Kelley School in Brewerytown, says too often, she sees teachers burn out because they're busy putting so many other things in front of their own self-care.

"This work is difficult. This is not for the faint of heart," Edwards said. 

More than a dozen of her teachers meet before or after school to take part in their workouts, where they do everything from riding on stationary bikes and taking walks through Fairmount Park to Zumba and yoga sessions. 

"We're really putting mental health and physical fitness at the workplace out on the forefront, because that's what keeps us strong and focused and supported in this work," she explained. 

There's also a mindfulness expert on hand to help teachers decompress, relax, or get ready to take on the day — a routine that focuses on deep breathing and calming the mind.

"If you knew how many things run through our minds or are on our desks as tasks to complete before the end of the day, it would be like a sonic boom," Edwards added.

Mental & Physical Health Campaign for my staff! #yoga #spin #meditation #deepbreathing #nofilters Self-care is the best care! When we are STRONG; they are STRONG‼️ @PHLschools @GetHealthyPHL @PhillyTrib @DAFrizzG @SIXERSSTRONG @SDP_OTL @DTECChangeAgent #ThisIsUs @PHLschoolboard

— W. D. Kelley School (@WDKelleySchool) January 23, 2020

The curriculum is put together by many, including physical education teacher Renay Clark, who says these exercises help more than just the teachers.

"Keeping ourselves healthier will enable us to better perform for our students," Clark said. 

Clark also encourages them to journal their progress.

"We're not just stopping with teachers, we're going to start to incorporate the community because we know that parents are important in this journey as well. We have healthy parents, we have healthy teachers, we have healthy students," she added. 

Edwards hopes this program can catch on at schools districtwide.