Mindfulness, student stress, and self-care are focus of outreach program for Pee Dee arts teachers

Christina Vandiver

As schools nationwide are increasing their focus on the social and emotional well-being of students, several Pee Dee arts teachers recently participated in free, online professional development workshops on these topics offered by the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Art and Humanities. These experiential workshops, funded by the Duke Energy Foundation, were designed to provide educators with tools to help students manage the anxiety and complex emotions that can arise in the arts classroom.

“When the South Carolina Department of Education’s AccelerateEd Task Force recommended social and emotional health as a priority for teacher training, we wanted to ensure that arts teachers were included in this important effort,” said Carol Baker, outreach director at the Governor’s School. “Arts classrooms are often emotional safe zones for students, and we felt it was critical to help prepare teachers for the new challenges that this upcoming year could bring.” 

Thirty-three English Language Arts, creative writing, and arts teachers from 20 schools in the Pee Dee region registered to participate in three-hour workshops facilitated by master teachers who use proven strategies and techniques that foster social and emotional well-being in creative classrooms. 

“The arts are typically a place where kids can express themselves and their feelings,” said Melanie Trimble, certified K-12 theatre teacher, licensed professional counselor and registered drama therapist. “Teachers need the best understanding of childhood stress and trauma reactions before they try to provide a healing and expressive space for kids in such an anxiety provoking circumstance."  In her workshop on Addressing Stress in the Elementary Arts Classroom, she provided an overview of chronic stress and trauma in young children and the
implications for the arts classroom setting. 

Author and teacher Heather Marshall is a graduate of the Mindful Schools Mindful Teacher Certification Program. She led the Mindfulness and Creative Writing workshop which guides teachers through writing exercises and simple techniques that can be incorporated throughout the school day to focus, recharge, and find deeper connections with their students.

The Fully Present and Fully Engaged workshop was facilitated by musician and Governor’s School Faculty Kathryn Dey who has been recognized nationally for her interdisciplinary work linking the fields of music, creative writing, acting, yoga and mindfulness. In this workshop, teachers gain mindfulness practices appropriate for the classroom, strategies for strengthening classroom connections, and self-care tips.

In addition to the workshop training, teachers who complete the program will also receive mini-grants for classroom supplies and a year’s subscription to ASSET, a program that helps alleviate student stress. Designed by teachers for use in the classroom, ASSET provides social and emotional learning (SEL) stress-reduction curriculum based on the tenets of Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, and Positive Self-Talk. The Governor's School was the first school in the state to incorporate ASSET into their curriculum in 2019. 

“As the Governor’s School seeks to fulfill its mission to be a resource to teachers and students statewide, we rely on strong partners like Duke Energy, whose regional grants help us build relationships with communities beyond our upstate reach,” said Baker.

“We are so proud to partner with the Governor’s School to help further their vision of providing quality professional development especially here in the Pee Dee region,” said Mindy Taylor, government and community relations manager for Duke Energy. “Duke Energy and the Duke Energy Foundation are committed to serving and investing in our community. This training program with the Governor’s School is just one example of our commitment to education and young artists.”

The SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities provides arts-based outreach programs to students, teachers, and schools in South Carolina. Duke Energy and the Governor’s School have worked together to serve the Pee Dee region through various arts-based programs for the past seven years.