Schools at all education levels have a duty to find the best ways to support students, but improving teachers’ health and wellbeing can also significantly contribute to providing the best education possible.

What the research says

In a recent Forbes article, former elementary school teacher Lily Jones argued that the wellbeing of teachers does affect student achievement. In 2013, Seymour Community Schools (SCS) in Boise, Indiana, partnered with Activate Healthcare to create an on-campus health clinic that has had many positive effects since its debut.

When the clinic was launched, 27 percent of SCS’s workforce had chronic health conditions that caused them to miss work on occasion. By 2018, the clinic cited fewer missed days as well as lowered blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and BMI rates among school staff. Offering more than just physical evaluations, the clinic provides personalized opportunities for nutrition counseling and stress management. Teachers are even paid $100 each to get yearly health assessments and $150 to meet their specific health goals.

Deriving personal benefits from a wellness program at work is nothing to scoff at, but how those benefits can potentially increase student performance is remarkable. Before the health clinic opened, SCS graduates averaged scores of 939 on the SAT and 21 on the ACT. After five years of teachers using the clinic, SAT scores averaged 1002 and ACT scores 24.

Of course it’s hard to say how much impact the clinic itself has had on student achievement, but as SCS CFO Steve Nauman puts it, “teachers are happier and healthier.” And that can only be a good thing.

Leading by example

The success of SCS’s clinic is achievable for most school districts given enough time to consider and implement best practices. Dr. Steve Aldana, who works in worksite wellness program deployment, created a list of why teacher wellness programs are important, including the specific steps needed to create them. Using the Boise school district’s program as a model, Dr. Aldana describes how an effective wellness program robustly controls ongoing health costs and increases general productivity.

The benefits of these programs are clear and, in time, we will likely see more such opportunities offered by school districts that are looking to take a well-rounded approach to employee wellness and productivity.