By Elizabeth Carter, Ph.D.

The Catholic Schools of Broome County held an in-service day for faculty and staff in March that was different from those typically held in the past. Most in-service days focus on faculty professional development which is always important. However, after two very stressful years dealing with all of the challenges that came along with the pandemic, faculty deserved a day to simply de-stress.

The day started with breakfast and words of appreciation from the school administration. Faculty were praised for their incredible flexibility, dedication, creativity andtireless support for their students. It was the ongoing determination of the faculty that enabled Catholic schools to stay open five days a week for all students during most of the two-year pandemic.

The day continued with a presentation from New York Project Hope titled Educator Stress: Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma. Faculty and staff learned about these important aspects of educator stress, and then participated in two activities: “Walk across the Line” and “What’s Your Why? Both activities were also presented by New York Project Hope staff.

“Walk across the line” helped faculty and staff to form connections with each other by relating to one another through different struggles they may have encountered throughout the pandemic. “What’s Your Why?” helped faculty and staff as individuals to remember why they have chosen the teaching profession. These activities gave faculty and staff the opportunity to reflect on the past two years and to remember their passions for teaching and working with youth.

A de-stress day is not complete without the opportunity to connect with God. Father Charles Opondo-Owora, Pastor of St. James Church in Johnson City, offered a beautiful Mass of support for faculty and staff in the Seton Catholic Central gym. Peaceful, soothing, de-stressing music was provided at the Mass by Matt Vavalle, music teacher at All Saints School in Endicott and St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton. Father Charles also offered reconciliation and reflection in the Seton Catholic Central Chapel.

Following the Mass, it was on to an amazing lunch prepared by Laura Levis and Lucy Friend (both staff working at Seton Catholic Central). The last part of the day featured stress-relief activities including volleyball, pickleball, line dancing, painting, health and wellness sessions and ukulele lessons. By the end of the day, faculty and staff felt renewed and refreshed having engaged in an important day of self-care. Administrators hope to make this a yearly event to celebrate our faculty and staff. Catholic school faculty and staff are preparing the youth of today to become future leaders and members of the Catholic Church. Let us always remember to nurture our teachers so they can keep nurturing our students.

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