SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio area teachers have had to deal with obstacle after obstacle these past few years, from COVID-19 scares to digital divides all while making sure their students don’t fall behind.
It has been a stressful couple years to say the least, but one school district, Southside ISD, has a new program to help their teachers’ mental health and combat burnout. At Freedom Elementary, they’ve created a calming room, designed with fully-functioning massage chairs.
“Our teachers are like I’m sure, most teachers everywhere. They don’t stop, they take work home. They’re doing it on weekends or are here early. So it’s hard to get them to take 15 minutes. But slowly and surely, we’re getting them used to using this room,” Brenda Barajas, Freedom Elementary counselor said.
Barajas said for the teachers, these last couple years have been tough.
“It was like walking on pins and needles. You know, everyone was just super stressed out,” she said.
So, Brenda and some other teachers went to the district to see what could be done to help their fellow employees out.
“Quite frankly, we made the argument, and the case eloquently, that teachers had never been under stress like this and it was a moral obligation almost to do something,” Sylvia Rincon, with the Southside ISD Education Foundation said.
The Southside ISD Education Foundation responded with massage chairs, with which Freedom Elementary turned into a calming room.
“They’re really nice chairs. They’re nice. They massage your back, your head, arms, legs, everything,” Barajas said.
“Every campus has one. The high school has two because they’re a bigger staff, and our pre-K Menchaca Early Childhood Center has two,” Rincon said.
The chairs come from the charity arm of the district, so that means no tax dollars were spent.
“We fundraise for all of these. And thanks to one group, they gave us a $10,000 grant to go towards health and wellness, as they do almost every year,” Rincon said.
So, are the chairs actually helping with morale?
“Definitely, like I know others are encouraging, you know, their other teammates to use the room. They’re kind of using it to take a break, take a step back, you know,” Barajas said.
Southside ISD said the chairs are an investment into the well-being of the faculty. And Brenda said she’s seen them make a difference.
“Our camaraderie has really come together and we’ve really become closer like a family,” she said.