For Emily Jones, a science teacher at Fairfield High School in Solano County, Resilience in School Environments (RISE) gave her the ability to be the best version of herself at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has hit educators hard.
Across Northern California teachers are grappling with the challenges of virtual instruction on top of additional stress created by the pandemic. RISE, a national initiative developed by Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools, equips teachers and staff with skills and resources to strengthen their emotional health and that of their students to foster a more positive, supportive learning environment.
“Educators carry a lot of different responsibilities and while we are in this job to support our students, sometimes we find ourselves disconnected from the most important piece of our profession — being human,” Jones said. “RISE helped me develop skills to better take care of myself so that I am my best when my students really need me.”
Fairfield High is one of 65 schools in Northern California, and among 2,700 nationwide, participating in RISE, launched virtually to schools nationwide in 2019 by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with Alliance for A Healthier Generation, a nonprofit dedicated to children’s health.
“Kaiser Permanente understands the impacts of stress on health and the increased need for mental health support for our educators during this incredibly challenging year,” said Mariah Lafleur, Kaiser Permanente national program lead for Thriving Schools. “RISE takes a holistic approach in working with teachers, staff, and students to build resiliency to better overcome adversity.”
Meeting Teachers Where They’re At
RISE is immediately meeting the increased need for virtual, no cost resources to support well-being and resilience among students and educators.
“RISE focuses on wellness when teachers are adjusting to a new methodology of teaching and coping with their personal lives,” said Kathryn Boyle, Kaiser Permanente Northern California program lead for Thriving Schools. “It provides a framework for intentional systemic and sustainable change within the school culture to support mental health for all.”
The initiative has been helping schools develop practices to reduce stress, expand education of social and emotional health among teachers and students, and improve the effectiveness of the schools’ current mental health systems. This is done through online trainings, on-demand resources and support, and assessments for schools and districts — all available at no cost to any school in the country.
RISE also offers a guided, in-depth training initiative to select high-need schools in which schools are paired with a program manager. Santa Rosa City Schools, New Haven, and Fairfield-Suisun school districts are currently participating from Northern California.
Dev Cuny, Northern California RISE program manager for Healthier Generation, is working with the school employees to identify the most pressing emotional health concerns affecting teaching and learning.
“When staff get their needs met, so do students,” Cuny said. “RISE validates the voices and needs of teachers and gives them tools they can use immediately.”
This year, Cuny has hosted stress management and trauma-informed practices webinars with the districts along with small group sessions. Committees of school employees were also created at the school and district levels to lead the integration of RISE practices into their schools.
Cuny told the story of a school that was experiencing low morale and exhaustion among staff. But after participating in RISE for a month, Cuny said, “There was a huge emotional shift. Suddenly there was laughter and a sense of community that was not there before.”