Originally published Aug. 12, 2022 in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
By Oscar Saravia
Tyler ISD administrators, faculty and staff gathered Friday to celebrate the start of a new school year at the annual district convocation.
The event, which was held at Green Acres Baptist Church, was packed with at least 2,800 district employees.
This year’s main topic was focused on mental and physical health for employees and the district as a whole.
The event was divided into sections where district members spoke about the school’s approach towards physical and mental health, presented State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) scores and thanked employees for their hard work in the last school year.
Guest speakers also spoke about the importance of taking care and staying on top of physical and mental health.
Dr. Marty Crawford, Tyler ISD’s superintendent, said the district decided to focus on health because of the challenges they’ve encountered in the last two years.
“We want to encourage students and educators to take care of themselves because if you take care of yourself, you’re going to come back and be more effective in what you do,” Crawford said. “People in the district already know the expectations when it comes to academic outcomes, so we also want to give them something else to think about.”
All Tyler ISD members can expect new initiatives that will promote health and wellness this school year.
Fitness, nutritional and mental wellness activities will be promoted throughout the new school year with the intention to get students, faculty and staff involved.
Crawford said there are already preliminary plans for these activities. Some will include fitness challenges between campuses and step count while being on campus.
“We are designed to do this, we are supposed to teach the youth of the community but we also have to take care of our employees and this will be a way to do that,” he said.
Todd Whitthorne, health and wellness speaker, was one of the guest speakers that talked about the importance of taking care of one’s mental and physical health.
Whitthorne is also a writer and chief inspiration officer for a Dallas-based company called Wondr, a corporate wellness organization that helps companies, universities and schools all around the country create healthier campus environments.
Whitthorne said focusing on schools’ mental and physical health has always been a priority since 2020 but it has been difficult because of pandemic restrictions.
“Physically and emotionally, folks are moving in a dangerous direction so we just have to prioritize these topics,” Whitthorne said. “Educators are the ones that get up every day to make a difference in the lives of students and we want to do everything we can to help them have the energy to be successful.”
Whitthorne said students should also watch out for their physical and mental health as it is in this age when they have to be extremely careful about their bodies.
He said Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a person who has worked with him very closely, used to say it is easier and less expensive to maintain a good health than to regain it once lost.
“The reality is that your environment is what is causing your problem,” Whitthorne said. “You can’t make other people exercise, sleep and eat for you and all those things are critically important to prioritize for ourselves.”
Whitthorne encouraged those who are struggling to make a fitness change to not give up and keep fighting to make that change.
He said one key factor needed to make a change is to ‘treat yourself like a Bugatti’ and eat accordingly as many health problems come from poor alimentation.
Having an adequate amount of sleep is also essential, according to Whitthorne.
“The most important thing that you can do is walk a dog, even if you don’t have one,” he said. “Get off the couch and be physically active each and every day, as every single cell in your body and neuron in your brain benefits from physical activity.”
Crawford encourages students to be part of physical fitness activities and sports programs offered by the district as they are essential to keep up with the mental health and physical fitness.
Extracurricular programs will begin once school starts Monday.
“Being part of a team is important because it makes your physical and mental wellness improve,” Crawford said. “We want our kids to be part of something that can improve their stance in life.”