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Putting Wellness First: How One Room is Helping Students Manage Emotions

Fred Rogers once said, “I’m convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings, ways that don’t hurt them or anyone else, we’re helping to make our world a safer, better place.”

In today’s world, we’re faced with all sorts of challenges and stressful situations, from the simple everyday tasks of getting to school on time and making sure projects are finished to the heavier unexpected obstacles. Sometimes all we need to do is to take a moment to recenter ourselves, and as we learn in the latest episode of Connect Canyons, schools are providing room for just that.

Wellness rooms have become important tools in our schools. Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints donated $42,000, through the Canyons Education Foundation, to expand wellness rooms into all secondary schools within the District. 

“It’s a darker room, with mood lighting, music and tools,” says Erin Moreno, Multi-tiered System of Support Assistant at Alta View Elementary, “I have a teepee with cushions, and the mood lighting is crucial because the second you walk in, it really calms you down and makes you feel like you’ve been transported into a deeper, better place.”

A few years ago, Moreno and a coworker were watching a training video which talked about high schools that had a place to go when students needed to regulate their emotions. She and her coworker decided to give it a try and created the wellness room at Alta View. To date, Moreno says she has seen more than 2,300 students use the room and leave with a better outlook.

“I’m not a therapist,” Moreno clarifies, “I don’t do therapy, I just listen. It’s a place for the kids to go to have someone who is looking them in the eye and listening. Teachers don’t always have the time to listen to a child one-on-one and there are a lot of kids that truly need you to listen to them.”

When students come to the wellness room, Moreno says she works to help them figure out what is bothering them. Moreno has four colors on her desk, green, yellow, red, and blue, each representing a different feeling or emotion. “Sometimes they’ll tell me one feeling,” Moreno says, “and the more we talk about it, they realize they’re not sad, they’re nervous about something. Or they’re not angry, they’re just really lonely.”

Moreno then provides the student with a tool, whether it’s a puzzle or a book to take their mind off things and help them settle into themselves. Moreno says the whole process takes roughly 10 minutes before students are able to work through their feelings and decide they can go back to class. “I give them a little bit of magic,” says Moreno, “it sounds really silly but the kids eat it up. I say, ‘you’re doing great, you’re doing amazing’ and I give them a high five and say, ‘go take on the world.’”

Jessica Davies, PTA president at Alta View, says her daughter, who attends Alta View, has used the wellness room. “When I asked my daughter to tell me about the wellness room, the word she used was ‘magic.’ Even if she wasn’t using it, it’s very reassuring to me as a parent that it’s there. It shows the school doesn’t just care about reading and math scores, it sends a message that the school cares about them as individuals.”

Moreno says she’s received feedback from teachers that once students go back to class after visiting the wellness room, they are able to do the work and focus.

“It’s amazing, the power of just talking to a child,” says Moreno. “You learn so much, both about the child and about yourself.”

Moreno says the key is to talk to your child or student about how they’re feeling and that many times it boils down to a smaller issue, making it much easier to resolve. “Break it down from a big picture, into small little pieces and work from there,” encourages Moreno. “It makes it a lot easier to deal with the anxiety in the child when you know what it is that is bothering them.”

Davies says she believes the wellness room has helped her daughter not only spend time in self-reflection, but also gave her the opportunity to feel she could share her feelings. “Probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed is it’s helped her to open up a little bit more, a little bit easier with me,” Davies says. “The other thing I’ve noticed about my daughter is sometimes she just needs that extra one-on-one time and her teachers and Ms. Moreno are absolutely fantastic and provide that when they can.”

“It’s truly magical,” says Moreno. “It’s been an amazing journey to see the smiles on the kids faces. It’s a magical room we have.”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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