Principal Advisory Council discusses emotional well-being of educators in Kentucky

Published 10:24 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

FRANKFORT – Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Principal Advisory Council heard at their Sept. 14 meeting how the department is trying to gather more input on how teachers have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Impact Kentucky survey, which consists of 77 questions, will take place from mid-November through December, with results released in January. The anonymous survey can be completed in 25 minutes and will be distributed through a coordinator at each school.

Veda Stewart from KDE’s Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness (OELE) said the department has added new questions that aim to strengthen the section on teacher well-being and belonging. These questions will help the department understand what teachers have been experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and better assist educators in improving their mental well-being. The survey is offered in partnership with the national research firm Panorama Education.

“We want to acknowledge the current state and not gloss over what we have been through, so we want to understand how the pandemic has affected our educators,” Stewart said.

Social, Emotional and Behavioral Learning

KDE’s Office of Continuous Improvement and Support (OCIS) shared strategies and resources to address the well-being of students and educators. Kathryn Tillett introduced the Compassion Resilience Toolkit for School Leaders and Staff – a resource for schools to engage their staff in understanding, recognizing and preventing/reversing compassion fatigue. KDE is providing access to additional school team training, videos and other materials to support educators’ wellbeing both in and out of the classroom.

The toolkit also offers brief, flexible learning activities to be integrated into staff meetings, trainings and ongoing communications. It has been strongly informed by research and best practices related to resilience, positive psychology, compassion fatigue, organizational psychology and mindfulness.

Michelle Nichols from OCIS said that implementing social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools is not simply the responsibility of school counselors.

“Implementing SEL should include all parties within the district and the school level, as well as bringing in community partners,” Nichols said.

Judi Vanderhaar, also from OCIS, shared data from the 2020 Impact Kentucky survey to highlight that educator well-being was a concern for the majority educators even before the pandemic began. Nichols introduced a planning tool for staff well-being that allows administrators to reflect on and evaluate ways to support their staff year-round. After reflection with the tool, a strategy menu and a 30-60-90-day plan of action are available. These tools will be presented at the Continuous Improvement Summit on Sept. 22-23 in Lexington.