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Thriving Teachers, Schools, and Communities

WGU School of Education SVP and Executive Dean Dr. Stacey Ludwig Johnson recently partnered with Utah First Lady Abby Cox to launch a podcast series for teachers and those who support them. The series, Educator Well-Being: From Principles to Practice is facilitated by Marty Carpenter of Northbound Strategy and includes guest subject matter experts from within K-12 education in each episode. The hosts discuss educator well-being and offer teachers tips and techniques to help them create healthy learning environments so they can thrive in their classrooms, schools, and communities. 

In episode #2, the hosts are joined by Amelia Azul-Elgas, the Learning Experience Designer and Online Community Engagement Specialist with the Healthy Learning Team in WGU’s School of Education. Her specialty is the Character Core pillar, which includes character initiatives funded by the Kern Family Foundation. Azul-Elgas, a former classroom teacher, has been a leader in helping develop and grow WGU’s.

Azul-Elgas and team developed  the Framework utilizing a comprehensive process that included scientific data from more than 500 worldwide studies with over half a million students. She uses this data to understand and demonstrate how intentionally integrating key character qualities such as critical thinking, curiosity, civic engagement, inclusion, compassion, and empathy can result in not only better classroom environments but also improved academic performance, better student engagement, and improved thriving for teachers and students alike.

To help teachers thrive, the podcast speakers suggest a holistic approach to education that recognizes the importance of building skill sets, as well as healthy learning and working environments.  You’ll hear how this Character Focused Approach Framework is being embedded into WGU’s Thriving Schools Professional Learning Program,  as well as initial licensure preparation and master’s degree programs so educators will enter their schools prepared to nurture and develop the qualities and skills that empirical data show improve learning and engagement.

The hosts also talk about their own experiences as educators, leaders, and parents of school-age children, and the superpower that a strong parent-teacher relationship can have in building thriving classrooms as well as in supporting teachers so they can best support their students.

Together they share findings from site visits where Azul-Elgas visited award-winning schools of character and saw how teachers can very effectively go from simply surviving to absolute thriving by employing some best practices throughout their day. She’ll also share the importance of finding and protecting a work-life balance that allows teachers to explore other personal interests so they can have the balance necessary to be career educators, reducing teacher attrition while improving their happiness and satisfaction in the noble profession of education.

Azul-Elgas has written and presented nationally on this topic, including at the Fall 2023 International Forum in Washington D.C.  With over 25 years of experience in education, community, and government organizations, she is passionate about advancing equity and thriving in education. She holds a master’s degree in Education from UC Berkeley, a bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Community Development from New College. She also has a certification in trauma-informed Dynamic Mindfulness from Niroga Institute. You can read some of her Tips for Teachers here as she shares activities teachers can implement today that promote thriving and bring a sense of community and balance to the classroom.   

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