PHOENIX — A Valley elementary school is battling teacher burnout by giving them a place to find some peace throughout the day.
“This is a really nice way to kind of take a break, relax, recenter, focus,” said first-grade teacher Breanne Yamada.
Surrounded in peaceful lighting and ambiance, teachers at Kyrene De La Sierra Elementary School recharge their batteries in a room now known as the "Zen Den."
“As much as you can work as hard as you can, and you want to do your best, sometimes you feel like you’re doing so much you can’t do it all,” said Yamada.
It's not too uncommon for educators like Yamada to fall prey to perfectionism.
It comes with the territory when academics at concerned. She says she is looking to overachieve how to make sure the kids in her care get the best education possible, while also leaving enough time for rest and recuperation.
“Teaching 26 first-graders feels like you’re in the little hamster wheel and you’re going and you’re going and you’re going, and your thinking about all these different things, you’re thinking about kids' academic needs, their social needs, their emotional needs, their home lives,” said Yamada.
A recent survey by the National Education Association showed 55% of teachers as they spoke on a plan to leave the profession early due to burnout, with 90% calling it a serious problem.
“Teachers are needing to do so much more to catch their kids up academically, emotionally, socially, and that is really taking a toll,” said school counselor Jessie Davis.
So, when the school won a $2,500 grant from the American Heart Institute, Davis went to work creating a space for teachers to let their hair down, if only for a moment.
“You’re going to see our diffuser here,” said Davis, pointing out features of the room filled with a feeling of calm — like giant bean bags and massage chairs. “This is probably the most used item; teachers can just stretch out on it."
The "Zen Den" is a one-of-a-kind perk making major differences inside and outside the classroom.
“This one really speaks to me, 'You don’t find balance, you create it,'” said Yamada of a sign in the room.
Something they’ve clearly done with the "Zen Den," a wonderful gesture that should pay dividends for the people with big hearts shaping little minds.