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Cleburne Education Foundation Grant Provides for Wellness Room at Marti


                The opening of a Wellness Room for teachers and staff at Marti Elementary is very timely, in coinciding with National Teacher Appreciation Week and Mental Health Awareness Month.

                Made possible with a $2,800 Innovative Grant Award from the Cleburne Education Foundation, underwriting for the small—and now serene--former conference room provided for two massage chairs, with a third donated by a member of the Marti team. Wall murals take those stopping by on a brief, and hopefully restorative, mental break to the beach or the mountains. Low lighting, soothing sounds of nature, an essential oil diffuser, room to stretch, a small desk dedicated to art therapy and a touch of tropical décor complete the setting.

                The effort to provide a self-care resource to the Marti staff reflects a growing trend among schools and districts in finding new, and creative, ways to help teachers decompress--and deal with mounting stress.

                “When we came back to school in January, following the Christmas break, our professional development included mental health wellness,” Marti Principal Mary Boedeker said. “The District had just announced the partnership with Care Solace as a mental health resource to not only students and families, but also staff.”

                “I knew how hard our staff was working, how overloaded they were,” she said. “I knew we as a campus wanted to do something. We kicked around ideas, and it was our counselor who mentioned Wellness Wednesdays at her previous school district. They would bring in a professional to provide shoulder and neck massages, along with other measures to relieve employee stress.”

                Boedeker began researching what companies and school districts were doing to address the physical—and mental—wellness of their employees.

                “There are a lot of businesses that provide ‘zen rooms’ for staff,” she said. “It was a team effort in coming up with the idea for a wellness room for our school and the decision to apply for a CEF Innovative Grant.”

                In March, Marti was among the stops made by representatives of CEF, armed with giant checks funding nine grants across the district—including their mental wellness initiative.

                “The Marti Wellness Room project was a new, innovative idea that our grant awards committee had never seen before, “ CEF Executive Director Paige Harris said. “The Cleburne Education Foundation is committed to supporting Cleburne ISD students and their teachers. We know teachers are under a tremendous amount of stress, and supporting their mental health ultimately benefits the entire campus.”

                In Marti’s grant application, Counselor Kristie Price credited the effectiveness of a wellness room in promoting and encouraging self-care among employees—which would ultimately have a positive impact in other areas of the school setting.

                “With the onset of COVID, and the sudden switch from in-person learning to remote instruction, teachers and staff, already known as the foundation for thriving, successful children, became recognized nationwide as superheroes,” Price said. “Whether teaching remotely or working outside of regular school hours, educators rose to the occasion in making sure student success remained their top priority. However, this constant and ongoing state of provision has been heavy, wearing educators down to the point of physical, mental and emotional burnout. Teachers come in early and often stay hours past dismissal. Some have experienced shortened lunches and extra duties as they covered the classes of fellow teachers and staff impacted by COVID and related issues.”

                “Now, more than ever, educators need a place to help them practice mindfulness, calm frayed nerves and replenish peace,” Price said. “The Marti Wellness Room will allow our teachers and staff a space to practice self-care for just a few moments throughout the day. Our goal is to provide an inspiring location and an opportunity for our staff to manage their wellbeing, while continuing to provide a positive learning environment for all the students who enter their classroom.”

                Marti teachers have given the Wellness Room an A-plus, as a welcome place to catch their breath or unwind with a few moments in the massage chair.

                “I’ve heard it referred to as an answer to prayers, a way to truly step away and relax and something to get us through those tough days,” said one Marti teacher. “I honestly feel this is money well-spent and I am so grateful to CEF for this grant award. We want anyone in CISD to feel welcome in coming by and experiencing our Wellness Room.”

                Glenna Pollock, CISD Director of Counseling and Guidance, would like to see wellness rooms at every campus.

                “I went to Marti the morning their wellness room was unveiled,” she said. “It’s a place for teachers and staff to have a few moments of peace and quiet. It’s important for teachers to take care of themselves, so they can take better care of their students. Teaching is hard—perhaps never more so than now—and it’s important they have a space like this. I’d love to see something like this at every campus.”

                Boedeker is extremely pleased with staff responses to the wellness room, particularly those from teachers.

                “I call it a space for a ‘grownup time-out,’” she said. “I think taking ten minutes for yourself helps you refocus, refresh and relax—it helps put things in perspective. I feel this is a gift to our staff. If this space will help keep our very hardworking educators and staff fresh and ready to do their jobs, it is so worth it.”