WE CARE+Wellness Program to Support Arkansas Teacher Corps Fellows
This article was originally published by the University of Arkansas.
An interdisciplinary faculty team has developed a wellness program for Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows with funds from a College of Education and Health Professions WE CARE grant.
WE CARE, an acronym for Wellness and Education Commitment to Arkansas Excellence, advances three priorities centered on expanding impactful research, engaging in service to Arkansas, and fostering a caring culture.
Arkansas Teacher Corps is a partnership between the College of Education and Health Professions, the Walton Family Foundation, the Arkansas Department of Education, and participating Arkansas public school districts to recruit, train, license , and support teachers across the state. The Arkansas Teacher Corps provides an accelerated path to teaching at a time when many Arkansas schools face severe teacher shortages.
A survey of ATC fellows revealed a critical need for mental health programming to help prevent burnout and exit from the teaching profession.
WE CARE+Wellness kicked off on July 10 with a workshop for the 38 new fellows in the Arkansas Teacher Corps’s 11th cohort. These educators all teach in high-needs partner school districts of the Arkansas Teacher Corps, and 79% are people of color. The interdisciplinary wellness team — all with classroom teaching experience at various levels and the requisite knowledge, skills, and professional expertise — created the specialized program for and trained the fellows in the “IS-WEL model of wellness.” Fellows will continue to receive support on implementing the program into their lives throughout the school year.
The team includes David D. Christian, associate professor of counselor education and supervision; Kara A. Lasater, associate professor of educational leadership; Brandon G. Lucius, executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Corps; Smruthi Chintakunta, a counseling doctoral student; and Jennifer Sugg, lead school counselor at Har-Ber High School in Springdale.
The core of the IS-Wel model is the self, surrounded by five second-order factors: creative self, coping self, social self, essential self, and physical self.
The WE CARE+Wellness event was held during the last week of the ATC Summer Institute, a six-week program that all new teaching fellows complete before their first year. Fellows learn the foundations of content knowledge and pedagogy, lesson planning, unit planning, formative assessments, classroom culture, lesson delivery, professionalism, educational equity, personal self-care, and emotional resilience. Fellows also practice creating lessons and delivering them to their peers, using feedback and their own reflection to adjust for the school year.
Since 2013, the three-year program has recruited, trained, and supported 10 cohorts of more than 200 teachers in 81 schools and 37 school districts throughout central, eastern, and southern Arkansas. In the 2023-24 school year, the Arkansas Teacher Corps will support 69 fellows in 43 schools and 21 school districts across Arkansas, a 15% increase from the year before.