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District Spotlight: Making Teachers' Health a Community Priority

We expect teachers to set a positive example for students, both inside and outside the classroom.

But the stress of teaching often leads educators to ignore their own health and wellbeing.

North Allegheny School District in Pittsburgh, Pa., has long put a premium on student health. Recently, school administrators decided that to truly make student wellbeing a priority, they first needed a staff and faculty that was dedicated to improving their own mental and physical fitness.

As Bob Scherrer, North Allegheny’s superintendent, says in a recent Education Week video report:

“The adults are role models in the school district. If we’re going to say we value wellness among our students—social-emotional health, physical health, nutrition—the adults have to lead by example.”

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But when Scherrer and his staff received a quote for new staff health insurance costs, he knew something was wrong. Not only were the new costs “astronomical,” but health data showed increasing instances of diabetes and health disease among district staff.

That’s when school leaders from across the region launched the North Allegheny Marathon Relay Challenge. Teams from each school compete in the relay race, and proceeds go to the district’s foundation, which promotes community engagement and innovation.

District leaders see the race as a symbol of its commitment to staff wellbeing and health. And staff members say they’re seeing the results.

Aimee Scott, a special education elementary teacher in the district, says the race and the district’s broader focus on staff health and fitness has helped her deal with issues of depression and anxiety along with making her more physically fit:

“Within a year, I had lost 35 pounds. My confidence came back. My energy, my motivation for life came back. Now, I’m living happy and free and off of medications, just because I started changing my lifestyle.”

For more on North Allegheny’s focus on staff health and wellbeing, check out the full video report below:

What steps does your district take to promote staff health and wellbeing? Have you ever considered asking teachers what health-related services would benefit them? Tell us in the comments.