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Thriving Schools Honor Roll 2018

Every day in our schools there are ordinary people doing extraordinary work to build a healthier future for the students, staff and teachers. These are the folks, who when faced with obstacles, look beyond them and see possibilities. They are collaborators, caregivers, coaches, instructors, advocates and all-around superstars.

The Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Honor Roll awards program recognizes those individuals who are championing sustainable, healthy school environments. The program celebrates successes, recognizes innovation and elevates best practices so that we can all be inspired.

This year’s cadre of award winners serve as staff, teachers, youth, parents, school or community leaders, and union leaders who:

  • Engage in promoting healthy school communities for students and staff through strategies such as:
    • Creating school systems and environments that promote and support healthy eating and physical activity
    • Creating school systems and environments that promote and support social and emotional health and wellness
    • Leading policy change to support student and staff wellness
    • Improving school climate
  • Demonstrate vision, creativity and a collaborative spirit in championing sustainable changes at schools
  • Inspire other school community members to take action

Take a tour through the success stories below and join us in celebrating the people who made it to this year’s Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Honor Roll. We hope you’ll be inspired by them and maybe even catch a glimpse of how you can follow in their footsteps in your school community.

Tina Clothier

Region: Hawaii
Title/Role: Executive Director
Organization/School District: People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii (PATH)

A convener. An innovator. A bold leader. These are the titles that are used to describe the way that Tina Clothier goes about her work. As the head of PATH, a small but dynamic non-profit organization committed to promoting community health across Hawaii’s Big Island, Tina has been instrumental in building support for active transportation, particularly among Hawaii’s schools.

Tina and PATH played a key role in establishing the Mayor’s Active Living Advisory Committee (MALAC), an advisory group made up of representatives from the county; the State Departments of Transportation; and the health, education, and business sectors who work with the mayor to enact policies and initiatives that foster safe, healthy, and active schools and communities. The success of PATH’s outreach and collaboration efforts is evident in the proliferation of walking and biking education programs, walk to school days, and the passing of a statewide Complete Streets policy that is the first of its kind in the country.

Jennifer Johnson

Region: Northwest
Title/Role: Climate and Culture Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA)
Organization/School District: Hillsboro School District

Stress is a fact of life. But managing stress is not necessarily something that we are innately born with. Often times, it is a skill that we must learn as we grow through life. Jennifer Johnson’s efforts to strengthen social and emotional well-being in schools provides students with the tools to work with their stress and emotions in ways that build healthy school environments for everyone.

Jennifer and her colleagues established the PAX Good Behavior Game, an initiative that creates safe and welcoming classroom environments where students can grow and thrive both emotionally and academically. The initiative took root in the Hillsboro School district and is quickly gaining popularity and spreading to other school districts in Washington County. She helped establish the Hillsboro School District’s Wellness Centers — classroom environments that offer a quiet, caring, and inclusive space for students to reflect and learn self-regulation skills so they can calm themselves when they are under stress. And she has been an advocate for Playworks in her school district, an evidence-based program that teaches young people resilience skills through games, play, and physical activity. As a result of Jennifer’s work, students are finding healthier ways to manage their emotions and continue to learn in the classroom. And their well-being is, in turn, benefiting the teachers and staff who work with them.

Kim Beeson and Amy Okeze

Region: Washington
Title/Role: Director of Student Supports and Director for Special Service
Organization/School District: Puget Sound Educational Service District

Schools are increasingly coming to understand the extent to which experiences of trauma and adverse childhood experiences can impact a student’s health, well-being, and ability to learn in the classroom. To address these critical issues, Kim and Amy created the Resilience Institute, a year-long series to help educators shift from simply managing student behavior to investing in trauma-informed strategies and practices.

The Resilience Institute offers a robust set of resources and learning modules, book studies, and applied learning, as well as open discussions, to better equip school staff with resiliency practices and help participants unpack implicit bias and unintentionally harmful pedagogies. Kim and Amy encourage Resilience Institute participants to share their learnings with the entire school community. Together, they are helping to empower others to take a trauma-informed approach to their relationships and interactions and invest in the healing power of resilience.

William Celestine

Region: Southern California
Title/Role: Director of Wellness Programs
Organization/School District: Los Angeles Unified School District

Building a healthy school environment in just one school can be a lot of work. Imagine the energy and vision it takes to build health across the second largest school district in the country. Will Celestine has done just that by helping the Los Angeles Unified School District set the record for the district with the most number of schools in the country to be recognized by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s (AHG) Healthy Schools Program.

Under Will’s leadership, 67 schools earned AHG’s Healthy Schools Award in 2018. He has been working at both the district level and among individual schools to improve school health by establishing Health and Safety Committees that guide wellness efforts and strengthen wellness implementation plans. This has led to significant improvements in school environments across the district, including increased physical activity in the classroom, nutrition education, healthy celebrations, and mindfulness in the classroom. Will’s thoughtfulness in approaching school health from all angles has been key to helping these efforts spread and be sustainable for schools in the long run.

Sabrina Callaway

Region: Georgia
Title/Role: Social Worker
Organization/School District: Fulton County Schools, Woodland Middle School

Any good effort at making positive change needs momentum to carry the work forward. And, Sabrina Callaway is a “Momentum Maker.” Her vision and leadership in support of Thriving Schools’ Resilience in School Environments (RISE) initiative has been indispensable to the success of this initiative and its taking root at Woodland Middle School and beyond.

In addition to being a champion of the RISE initiative, Sabrina has been an invaluable partner in laying the groundwork for the “Woodland Café,” a staff wellness room that she helped bring about through an Action Plan grant she garnered for the school. The Café is a direct reflection of the wishes and desires of school staff that Sabrina carried through the creation process. The café has proved to be a novel approach to creating space for school staff to relax and connect with colleagues. Sabrina has the respect of her colleagues and continually moves the ball forward in this important work.

Marla Caplon

Region: Mid-Atlantic States
Title/Role: Director, Student Wellness Initiatives
Organization/School District: Montgomery County Public Schools

Marla Caplon understands that one of the best ways to assure something gets done is to form and nurture a team of people who are charged with creating the vision and carrying out the work. And that’s just what she’s been able to do by being the catalyst for creating wellness councils in every school in her district.

Having recently transitioned from her long-time role as head of Food and Nutrition Services for the district to her new role overseeing student health and wellness, Marla has been actively looking for ways to scale up her school health work through local and district-level policies, systems, and environmental changes. She is a natural convener, leader, and influencer whose passion, knowledge, and spirt of collaboration are helping to make Montgomery County Public Schools one of the first districts in the nation where every school has an active wellness council.

Andrea Laube

Region: Colorado
Title/Role: Wellness Program Specialist
Organization/School District: Denver Public Schools

Health care and prevention efforts have to be easy and accessible for people if they’re going to work. And nowhere is this more critical than for those who spend much of their day in schools. As an advocate for employee health and wellness, Andrea Laube is constantly looking for ways to meet school employees where they are and provide them easy opportunities to address their health.

Andrea takes a holistic approach to employee health by facilitating a variety of lifestyle programs — on-site health screenings, fitness classes, relaxation trainings, and coaching — that address both physical and emotional health. She exudes enthusiasm for her work and is always focused on providing programs and benefits that fit the unique needs of school employees.

Kate McDevitt

Region: Southern California
Title/Role: District Wellness Supervisor
Organization/School District: San Diego Unified School District

When looking for someone who epitomizes the school health movement, look no further than Kate McDevitt. Kate leads San Diego Unified School District’s Wellness Initiative. She oversees 5 high school wellness centers and provides ongoing support to each of the 178 School Site Wellness Coordinators who are charged with implementing the district’s Wellness Policy and promoting student and staff wellness, proper nutrition, health education, regular physical activity, social emotional well-being, and safe school environments.

As part of the Wellness Initiative, each school is asked to complete an annual wellness assessment to identify areas of improvement and an action plan for addressing the school’s health needs. This structure, designed by Kate, has guided schools in creating positive, healthy, and sustainable changes to their school environment. This year, Kate coordinated an inaugural District Wellness Institute to provide comprehensive professional development to all School Wellness Coordinators. With a district so large, it is quite remarkable how Kate has been able to support School Site Wellness Coordinators in their efforts to create a culture of health and wellness for the more than 100,000 students and 10,000 staff and families in San Diego.

Meagan Reliford

Region: Colorado
Title/Role: Physical Education Teacher
Organization/School District: Greeley-Evans School District 6, Madison Elementary School

Meagan Reliford is a true champion, role model, and leader in school wellness. She promotes healthy eating and physical activity every day through her job as a physical education teacher, her roles as Student Wellness Team Leader and Worksite Wellness Champion, and through her personal passion of running.

Meagan has developed programs such as the annual Wellness Fair and Color Run at her school. She has fostered a school environment where students, staff, and families are supported with healthy food options at school events and where student attendance is rewarded with prizes and incentives that inspire greater health and physical activity. Meagan’s passion for and commitment to healthy lifestyles, along with her incredible organization skills, gives staff and students at Madison Elementary a wealth of opportunities and encouragement to engage in wellness.

Heather Cruz

Region: Southern California
Title/Role: Coordinator of Physical Education, Health, and Wellness
Organization/School District: Chula Vista Elementary School District

Heather Cruz understands the power of health data to shape a story about what’s working and where improvements need to be made to achieve student and staff well-being. She has been strategic in using data to show the link between obesity, attendance, and life span and in a manner that underscores the importance and urgency of addressing health gaps and disparities. She has collaborated with the Health and Human Services Agency, Kaiser Permanente, Family Resource Centers, and all 46 schools in her district to ensure accurate data is collected, analyzed, and utilized in determining health and wellness priorities.

Heather’s use of data not only shapes the story but also creates a roadmap for action. Through her data analysis, education, and advocacy, she has been able to strengthen healthy food consumption and reduce food waste in the district, implement worksite wellness opportunities for teachers and staff, and strengthen physical education instruction to better meet nationally accepted health standards. Her creative communication of data to tell a bigger story is helping to motivate staff, students, and the entire learning community to focus on health.

Shelly Henderson

Region: Washington
Title/Role: Wellness Coordinator
Organization/School District: Everett School Employees Benefits Trust, Everett Public Schools

Shelly Henderson understands that what is good for school staff is also good for students, and that what is good for schools is good for the entire community. As the lead for employee and staff wellness in Everett Public Schools, she demonstrates how staff wellness is not a stand-alone objective, but a movement building culture change.

Over the last year, Shelly has moved the Everett School District staff wellness program from solely focusing on “move more, eat less” to taking a more holistic approach focused on reducing stress and improving resilience of staff. She brings innovation, creativity, and vision to this work, adding musical meditation and attention training for high school students and parents to her repertoire, demonstrating her commitment to improving the health of the whole school community. From linking teachers and parents to a before-school running club, to mindfulness, to mobile mammography vans and health screenings at the annual well-being fair, Shelly keeps health and well-being fresh, fun, and at the forefront of the school community’s focus.

Giovanna Allison

Region: Georgia
Title/Role: Instructional Technology Coach
Organization/School District: Fulton County Schools, McNair Middle School

Giovanna Allison believes in the power of starting the day with mindfulness, and she brings that practice to the school staff and students with whom she comes in contact. She enlisted the principal of McNair Middle School to begin the school day with mindful breathing exercises and has been a champion of mindfulness and other resilience practices within her school.

Giovanna has also played a strong role in strengthening the expansion of Thriving Schools’ Resilience in School Environments (RISE) initiative just as it was beginning to take root in her district. She has led efforts to create safe spaces for staff to rejuvenate, has incorporated mindful moments in the staff monthly newsletter, and has facilitated learning opportunities for staff to deepen their understanding of resilience, mindfulness, and other trauma-informed approaches to social and emotional health. Giovanna has the trust of teachers and staff and is seen as a true leader in promoting school health.

Brian Axworthy

Region: Colorado
Title/Role: Supervisor of Nutrition Services and Chef
Organization/School District: Pueblo 70 School District

Intention is one thing. But having the tools to carry out intentions can make all the difference. Brian Axworthy knows that school health requires both. He has been working at both the district level and with individual schools and their staff to build the tools that will encourage a Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model to become a reality in the district.

Brian regularly meets with wellness leaders and supports them in building capacity at their schools to support health. He directs the district’s Task Force for Health and Wellness and engages internal and external stakeholders in planning school health activities. This includes helping to create wellness teams in each school, being a voice for the importance of health and its impacts on education and academics, coordinating professional development opportunities for staff, and building onsite support for partnerships with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and their Healthy Schools Program. Brian has been a consistent link between the community and the school district in emphasizing the importance of school health efforts and in advocating for health at every opportunity.

John Jimno

Region: Northern California
Title/Role: Principal
Organization/School District: Antioch School District, Park Middle School

Safe spaces matter. John Jimno understands this deeply. He has been the force behind the creation of a Wellness Room at Park Middle School, a safe space where students can go to self-regulate their emotions and behavior before returning to class. The Wellness Room provides several options for students to work through their emotions: speak with a school counselor, practice mindful breathing and yoga, or access tools to help refocus and calm the mind in the “chill out zone.”

John’s commitment to the Wellness Room is reflected in his decision to ask his staff to send students struggling with behavior there rather than to the on-campus suspension room, as had been previously been practiced. This shift in discipline policy allowed the Wellness Room to prosper and gave many students the opportunity to access its resources. John is adept at involving students and staff in leading mindfulness efforts at his school thereby promoting shared ownership. And he has been keen to identify students who use the Wellness Room the most and proactively reach out to them and their families to problem solve and offer further support.

Marie LeBlanc

Region: Colorado
Title/Role: Student Services Coordinator
Organization/School District: Englewood Schools

Marie LeBlanc wears many hats in her work with Englewood Schools. But with everything she does, her purpose is very clear: she believes that learning and healing take place in safe and supportive relationships, and she is dedicated to guiding and resourcing Englewood Schools as they create an environment for such relationships to develop and thrive.

Marie is committed to the complex work of restorative justice and has advocated for such practices in schools as well as in the community. She understands the impacts of trauma on relationships and has organized parent and community education sessions to help others use trauma-awareness in their homes and their relationships with children. Marie provides consistent thought-partnership and support for school leaders as they seek to implement innovative approaches to social and emotional learning.

Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ) Leadership Team

Region: Washington
Title/Role: (Various roles)
Organization/School District: Renton School District

Imagine asking students what made their school unique and having them respond, “Here we give each other grace.” Imagine a second-grade math lesson where all the students are sitting in groups, deeply engaged, exchanging ideas about how to solve math problems. This is the kind of transformation being led by the Renton Innovation Zone (RIZ).

The RIZ leadership team supports social and emotional health and wellness through a shared vision of schools founded on strong relationships and enthusiasm for learning. They have helped to lead shifts in pedagogy, classroom instruction, and student discipline, which in turn have helped establish a dynamic and respectful learning community. Teachers have learned to approach student behavior with curiosity, to identify strengths, and to see behavior as a form of communication. This culturally responsive shift in pedagogy has led to an upward trend in academics and a downward trend in discipline referrals, fostering learning communities in Renton where adults and children are thriving together.

April Brown

Region: Georgia
Title/Role: Counselor
Organization/School District: Fulton County Schools, Woodland Middle School

April Brown knows that school health cannot rest on the efforts of one initiative. Rather, there needs to be a coordinated set of programs and activities that reinforce goals and messaging. April has been instrumental in the success of Thriving Schools’ Resilience in School Environments (RISE) initiative in Georgia through her support for behavioral health and resiliency programming, educational theatre productions, on-site wellness classes, and parent engagement programs.

One of April’s notable systems change successes was getting school district leaders to allow for 90 minutes of protected planning time for teachers on a regular basis. During this time, teachers are free from meetings and other obligations and can use this opportunity to check in on their personal wellness goals or plan for their instruction. April was instrumental in helping school leadership understand the value of this time for teachers so that teachers felt they had greater voice in their own health and well-being and in the direction of RISE work across the entire school community.

Donte’ Samuel

Region: Mid-Atlantic States
Title/Role: Fitness Coach
Organization/School District: Belmont Elementary School

Coach Donte’ Samuel is a community activist and change agent who understands the connection between the physical body and mental health. Through his fitness classes at Belmont Elementary, he reaches out to every student and shares with them the value and importance of making healthy choices for body, mind, and spirit.

With his own time and resources, Coach Donte’ single-handedly built a staff fitness room where he trains school staff for free. On the weekends, he offers free workouts to colleagues, families, and neighbors in the Belmont community and shares his knowledge of healthy eating and physical activity with anyone who asks. He uses his role within the school to advocate for the inclusion of healthy foods at every opportunity and has been instrumental in designing and building school gardens in collaboration with the community. And he uses eating lunch with him and fitness center time as rewards to students for good behavior. Using his personal passion for health and wellness, Coach Donte’ has inspired countless others to make positive changes in their lives, leading Belmont Elementary to become a shining example of what a healthy school can be.

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