DeKalb County teachers get moment to relax before school year

DeKALB – When you find trivia, zumba, free massages and comfort dogs all in one place, it can only mean summer nearly is over and school is about to begin.

On Thursday, the DeKalb County Regional Office of Education held its second annual Spirit Day at the Community Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb. Vendors from across the county came to show support and help teachers get ready for the new school year.

Regional Superintendent Amanda Christensen said the idea was inspired by school spirit days.

“You wear your shirt and have an assembly to show your spirit,” she said. “We as a county office wanted to show our spirit for our personnel,” she said.

The idea was designed to help teachers prepare for the upcoming school year, but didn’t include reading, writing or arithmetic.

“It was all generally toward stress management, health, wellness and self-care,” Christensen said.

Activities focused on laughter, fitness and mindfulness, she said, and comfort and coping strategies to kick off the new year.

Teaching often is cited as one of the most stressful professions. Earlier this year, a study from the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 20% of teachers in the United Kingdom feel tense about their job "most or all of the time."

In 2017, a study at a Midwestern school district reported that 93% of teachers reported high stress, while only 7% said they were "well-adjusted."

Laura Russman, curator at the Schingoethe Center at Aurora University, hosted an art therapy class for teachers.

“Studies show that doing art for just 20 minutes can reduce stress,” she said. She walked teachers through making a scratch board or washi tape picture frames.

A scratch board is a black sheet of paper that, when run over with a a tool to scratch it, would reveal a white drawing underneath. The picture frames used decorative tape to make designs on the outside of a plain picture frame.

“It’s not unlike something we do with students at the college,” Russman said.

Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Ministries brought three of their comfort dogs to the event.

Volunteer Ray Pemoller said that the dogs go to all sorts of events and locations, from disasters to schools and hospital visits. The ministry began after the shooting at Northern Illinois University, when the organization brought dogs to comfort students.

“We saw the benefit of using our dogs to bring comfort,” Pemoller said

Missy Hester, a first-grade teacher at Prairie View Elementary School in Sandwich said she thought the day was a neat idea.

“There are a lot of resources and things I’d never heard of,” she said.

During the school year, when there isn’t a fair to help deal with the stress, she said she and her fellow teachers work together. She attended the fair with a fellow Prairie View teacher Amanda Forester.

“We work with each other, and we can make light of a lot of it,” Forester said of the school year stress.

The event was free for everyone to attend. All of the time from vendors and gifts bag for the raffle were donated by local businesses, Christensen said.