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Superintendent's News

Posted: December 10, 2021

Make Merry and Stay Well

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder encourages employees to take care of themselves during the winter break.

Artwork by Cibola junior Anna Bononcini

Artwork by Cibola junior Anna Bononcini

When I was a teacher and then school administrator, I didn't just look forward to winter break; I needed it. By the time mid-December rolled around, I was exhausted – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

That's because teaching and other education-related professions are more than jobs. They are service-oriented careers that center on the most vulnerable and most promising members of our society. It's noble, demanding work that genuinely impacts the lives of our students, their families, and the future of our entire community.

Throw in a seemingly unshakable virus, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, an uptick in discipline issues, and unfinished learning, and there's no wonder we're feeling extra worn out this semester.

For going on two years now, we have asked Albuquerque Public Schools employees to over-perform and over-deliver, taking on added duties, learning new skills, filling in for vacancies, putting in more and more time to keep our schools open and functioning.

I know the burden has been cumbersome, and I can't say enough how much I appreciate all of you. I have been advocating on your behalf at the state level, talking to legislators and officials at the New Mexico Public Education Department about finding some relief for our educators. You can't be asked to do any more, I'm telling them. Burnout is inevitable, and we can't afford to lose good people. Our students are the ones who will suffer most.

Know that I have your back.

I also care about your health and well-being, so I turned to Becky MacGregor, our Employee Wellness Coordinator, for advice on self-care and wellness. She provided three tips to help address burnout during the holiday season and beyond:

  1. Simplify the season. Don't feel like you have to make up for celebrations lost during the pandemic. Even before COVID-related restrictions and shutdowns, too many of us felt obligated to attend every gathering. But you can have too much of a good thing, so make sure you set aside time for your own wellness and self-care activities.
  2. Really relax. Not all downtime needs to be productive. You don't have to spend your weekends or vacations checking off to-do lists. Research shows that true relaxation can lower blood pressure, anxiety, muscle tension, and heart rate, which, in turn, can improve energy levels, sleep quality, concentration, memory, and productivity. So, step away from work and emails. Go for walks, read a good book, watch fun movies, play games with your family. Do things that feed your soul and bring you joy.
  3. A little goes a long way. You don't have to make massive lifestyle changes to improve your well-being. Instead, take simple steps to help you feel better throughout the day. For example, try breathing techniques for stress relief, stand up and stretch, go for short walks, step away from the computer, put down your phone. 

I encourage you to check out some of the many programs offered through APS Employee Wellness. These include:

  • Health Coaching 
  • Life on Mindfulness 
  • Nourish Your Green Zone - a resilience-building & well-being program
  • MyStress Tools
  • Livongo for diabetes, high blood pressure, and weight management

The December Wellness Newsletter has registration links and more information for these programs.  

Don't forget about the Employee Assistance Program, which offers free, confidential counseling for all employees and immediate family members. Additional mental and behavioral health benefits are provided through APS Benefits and local community resources. The information is available in the Mental Health Corner on the APS Employee Wellness intranet site. 

And finally, Becky asked me to plug the New Mexico Educator Weight Loss Challenge between APS and UNM, CNM, and other school districts. Employee Wellness will provide more information in the coming weeks. The challenge starts on Jan. 28. Let's show all the other entities our APS team spirit and kick (or lose, in this case) some booty! (Sorry, Becky made me say that.)

Make merry this winter break. Surround yourself with loved ones. Get some sleep. Laugh often. And stay well!