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'We need this' | Galesburg hosts educator wellness day

"Choose to Thrive in #205" was a professional development event for educators in Galesburg CUSD #205 to learn strategies for social and emotional wellbeing.

GALESBURG, Ill. — Galesburg Community Unit School District 205 is making an effort to maintain the mental and physical health of its educators by providing an educator wellness event, "Choose to Thrive in #205" on Saturday, March 26.

The professional development day included sessions that taught strategies for strengthening personal wellness, as well as skills around social and emotional learning that can be taught in the classroom.

"Our teachers do so many special and amazing things for our students, and today, we want them to learn about things they can implement in their classrooms to support their students, as well as support themselves," said Mindi Ritchie, Director of Student Success and Support Services for the district. "We want them to leave feeling refreshed, feeling cared for ... and have their cups filled as they do for our students every day."

Various sessions throughout the day included "Finding Your Joy!," "The Cost of Caring," "Yoga for Stress Relief" and "Is it Just Me, or Does it Seem Like Everyone has ADHD These Days?"

Alicia Condreay is an outreach worker for the district. Prior to that, she was a teacher for 18 years.

"I was really apprehensive. I didn't know what to expect," she said. "And I will say that my first session after the keynote speaker, I felt a lot of energy."

One of the sessions she attended was "Finding Your Joy!"

"That was like the eye opener for the day," Condreay said. "A lot of things that she had said, I think I knew subconsciously but it just brought it out. So one was what is your passion? As an outreach worker, every day I am trying to help others, and sometimes I forget, like I need to help myself before I can help others. So I definitely when I leave today, I'll be trying to figure out what exactly is my passion and making more time for myself."

With the stress that educators are under, she said a day like this was much needed.

The pandemic has caused burnout in teachers across the country.

Illinois public schools reported 4,120 unfilled positions for the 2021 school year, a majority of which were in teaching roles, according to the State Board of Education

RELATED: 'People are burnt out': Staff shortages at IL schools have teachers stretched thin

Additionally, a 2021 Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools survey found that 49% of respondents say that burnout has caused increased turnover.

At "Choose to Thrive in #205," small businesses from the Galesburg area having to do with wellness, such as boxing and painting, were also brought in for people to learn about.

"We use this opportunity to not only provide that excellent professional development, but also offer them the opportunity to feel valued, to collaborate with peers, to socialize with peers, something that we've not been able to do, really any of us, in some time," Ritchie said.

Condreay said she enjoyed getting to spend this time with other teachers. Many of them spent time discussing the sessions and sharing their different takeaways.

"It's important for us to know that we're all in this together," Condreay said. "We're all feeling stresses in so many different ways, and it's okay. I mean, rely on one another."

Both Ritchie and Condreay hope Saturday's "Choose to Thrive in #205" is not the last.

"We need this," Condreay said. "In so many different ways, not just because of what we've been through since March of 2020 with COVID-19, but this is something that I think every educator in any aspect of the teaching world can benefit from greatly. With this being our first one, I certainly hope it's not our last."

Ritchie already has ideas for what they can do for the event next year. She hopes it can be expanded to people beyond just educators, and possibly people from outside of the district.

Around 200 educators in Galesburg CUSD #205 attended Saturday.

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