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Support Strategies for Educators' Well-Being
September 2020


What does the research say about strategies that school administrators can use to support educators' well-being during COVID-19?


Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at the American Institutes for Research. (2020). Educator resilience and trauma-informed self-care self-assessment and planning tool. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

From the Document:
"Teachers across the country are being asked to adopt innovative practices and thoughtful solutions to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. In the face of this collective trauma, teachers are standing up to the disruptions and challenges and navigating this new terrain, as they work to take care of themselves and their families and maintain connections with students and colleagues. This handout includes a self-care self-assessment with key strategies for fostering resilience and a self-care planning tool to assist educators in identifying areas of strength and growth related to self-care and developing self-care plans."

Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at the American Institutes for Research. (2020). Building trust and well-being through trauma-informed communities. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

From the Document:
"Educators are increasingly aware of the high rates of student exposure to childhood adversity and trauma and the effects on learning. Adverse experiences include family violence; abuse; parent separation or divorce; family mental health and substance use problems or incarceration; and environmental adversities, such as exposure to group and/or community violence, poverty and related stressors, bullying, racism and discrimination, poor health, and involvement with other systems such as child welfare and juvenile justice. School staff may also be directly exposed to a wide range of adverse and potentially traumatic experiences, and they are at risk of experiencing secondary trauma after witnessing the effects of trauma on their students. Experiences related to the COVID-19 crisis add an additional layer of stressors for students, families, and school staff. In response to this collective trauma, school leaders face unique challenges and opportunities as they work to reopen schools and create school communities that address the intersection between adversity, well-being, and academic success. This handout offers a self-assessment for school leaders that includes an array of trauma-informed strategies for fostering trust, wellbeing, and resilience for all in the learning environment during these unprecedented times."

Cipriano, C., Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G., & Brackett, M. A. (2020). Supporting school community wellness with social and emotional learning (SEL) during and after a pandemic. University Park, PA: Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from

From the Document:
"In this brief, the authors, explore the role of social and emotional learning in promoting wellness during the compounding traumas of a pandemic. The challenge is how to systematically build SEL as a critical component of ‘preparedness'."

Collie, R. & Martin, M. (2020, April 7). Teacher wellbeing during COVID-19. [Online article]. Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from

From the Document:
"While COVID-19 is grinding much of society to a halt, schooling has entered uncharted territory. During this time, it is important that teachers look after themselves. Fortunately, there are evidence-backed strategies that can help support teachers' wellbeing. Teachers' wellbeing is not only a vital outcome in itself, it is a means to other vital outcomes, such as students' learning and wellbeing. Below, we run through several strategies for supporting teacher wellbeing and explain why they might be helpful for navigating COVID-19 and its impacts."

Eva, A. L. (2020, March 25). How teachers can navigate difficult emotions during school closures. [Online article]. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from

From the Website:
"The COVID-19 crisis is forcing educational professionals across the globe to take a collective breath. What's next? Whether we're actively planning online lessons from our homes or bingeing more Netflix movies than we had ever anticipated, we're faced with so many unknowns—and more time to sit with our emotions. We may feel overwhelmed, fearful, and emotionally fragile. Perhaps also restless, bored, and helpless. With so much uncertainty, how can we navigate this range of emotions? After all, researchers remind us that our stress-management skills ultimately help our students (and those around us) stay calmer."

Harris, A. R., Jennings, P. A., Katz, D. A., Abenavoli, R. M., & Greenberg, M. T. (2016). Promoting stress management and wellbeing in educators: Feasibility and efficacy of a school-based yoga and mindfulness intervention. Mindfulness, 7(1), 143–154. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"We evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of the Community Approach to Learning Mindfully (CALM) program for educators. CALM is a brief daily school-based intervention to promote educator social-emotional competencies, stress management, and wellbeing. Two middle schools were randomly assigned to waitlist control condition or the CALM program. Participants included 64 educators. Intervention sessions included gentle yoga and mindfulness practices and were offered 4 days per week for 16 weeks. Pre- and posttest measurements included self-report surveys of social-emotional functioning and wellbeing, blood pressure readings, and diurnal assays of cortisol. Compared to the control condition, CALM had significant benefits for educators' mindfulness, positive affect, classroom management, distress tolerance, physical symptoms, blood pressure, and cortisol awakening response. There were trend-level effects for two measures related to stress and burnout. No impacts were observed for relational trust, perceived stress, or sleep. Effect sizes for significant impacts ranged from 0.52 to 0.80. Educators found the intervention feasible and beneficial as a method for managing stress and promoting wellbeing. Initial evidence suggests that CALM has potential as a strategy to improve educators' social-emotional competence and wellbeing, prevent stress-related problems, and support classroom functioning."

Hydon, S., Wong, M., Langley, A. K., Stein, B. D., & Kataoka, S. H. (2015). Preventing secondary traumatic stress in educators. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 24(2), 319–333. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Teachers can be vulnerable to secondary traumatic stress (STS) because of their supportive role with students and potential exposure to students' experiences with traumas, violence, disasters, or crises. STS symptoms, similar to those found in posttraumatic stress disorder, include nightmares, avoidance, agitation, and withdrawal, and can result from secondary exposure to hearing about students' traumas. This article describes how STS presents, how teachers can be at risk, and how STS can manifest in schools. A US Department of Education training program is presented, and thoughts on future directions are discussed."

Lander, J. (2018). Helping teachers manage the weight of trauma: Understanding and mitigating the effects of secondary traumatic stress for educators. Usable Knowledge. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from

From the Website:
"The very acknowledgement by school leaders that teachers might be experiencing STS is a step in the right direction. Too often, teachers feel that they are working alone. For teachers experiencing STS, this can be particularly dangerous, as it can easily exacerbate feelings of being overwhelmed, isolated, and hopeless. School leadership should consider ways to appreciate staff both publicly and privately — not just by recognizing great work, but also by acknowledging that the work is difficult. Schools should connect school staff who might be experiencing STS with resources and make clear that symptoms are not a sign of weakness, but an indicator that they might need support because they work in an challenging profession."

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2018). Taking care of yourself. Los Angeles, CA: Author. Retrieved from

From the Website:
"The brief offers providers a list of ideas for self-care strategies to use after a difficult event. This checklist outlines the three basics aspects of self-care including awareness, balance, and connection."

Pate, C. (2020). Self-care strategies for educators during the coronavirus crisis: Supporting personal social and emotional well-being: Crisis response resource. San Francisco: WestEd.

From the Abstract:
"The challenges and stresses that educators face in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. To continue supporting their students in this challenging context, teachers and other educators must first be able to take care of themselves. Addressed to educators who face the stresses of the pandemic and the resulting school closures and online service provision, this brief offers practical information and guidance on self-care. It describes self-care as paying adequate attention to one's own physical and psychological health and wellness, and actively attending to one's own health and well-being. The brief, produced by WestEd as part of a collection of Crisis Response Resources, builds on a growing research base about self-care, as well as WestEd's extensive experience in education, public health, and wellness services. The brief provides sections on healthy mindsets and behaviors; identity, connectedness, and belonging; healthy boundaries and interactions; and when to seek help. The guidance aims to help educators attend to self-care so that they, in turn, can most effectively continue to educate and support those who depend on them."

Prilleltensky, I., Neff, M., & Bessell, A. (2016). Teacher stress: What it is, why it's important, how it can be alleviated. Theory Into Practice, 55(2), 104–111. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Teacher stress can be conceptualized as an imbalance between risk and protective factors. Stress emanates from risk factors at the personal, interpersonal, and organizational levels. When risk factors exceed protective factors, teacher ability to cope with adversity is inhibited, likely resulting in stress and pernicious consequences. In this paper we draw on empirical evidence as well as our own professional efforts at reducing stress among novice teachers to explain the phenomenon and recommend interventions."

Roman, T. (2020). Supporting the mental health of preservice teachers in COVID-19 through trauma-informed educational practices and adaptive formative assessment Tools. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 28(2), 473–481. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"To address the emotional and mental health needs of teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, existing instructional technology tools can be rapidly adapted to support trauma-informed educational practices. In this action research and practice brief, the instructional strategies and communication tools used to support the mental health needs of preservice teachers within an instructional technology course are detailed. Preliminary outcomes indicate that although preservice teachers are effective in using instructional technology tools to articulate the status of their health and well-being, not all preservice teachers chose to engage in course activities, highlighting that the most vulnerable preservice educators need additional support during COVID-19 teaching and learning. Implications for preservice and in-service teacher education are discussed."

Sokal, L. J., Trudel, L. G. E., & Babb, J. C. (2020). Supporting teachers in times of change: The job demands-resources model and teacher burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Contemporary Education, 3(2), 67–74. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Burnout in teachers has been broadly investigated, but no studies have investigated burnout in teachers during a pandemic. The current study is based on a survey of 1278 Canadian teachers and examined whether the Job Demands-Resources model was a useful lens for examining teacher burnout in this unprecedented context. Results supported the model in general terms in that most demands were most strongly correlated with the initial exhaustion stage of burnout. However, not all resources were most strongly associated with the later stages of burnout, suggesting that the examination of specific resources in the context of a pandemic as opposed to examining resources together as a latent variable contributes to development of a more refined model. Suggestions for supporting teachers' welfare are provided."

Transforming Education. (2020). SEL for educators toolkit. Boston, MA: Author. Retrieved from

From the Document:
"SEL for Educators Toolkit consists of a Professional Learning Presentation, Companion Guide, Snapshot, and Reference List. It is intended to be an accessible and actionable synthesis of the research on the social-emotional learning (SEL) of adults in school settings. It is designed to be flexible and adaptable; educators can review and use these tools in their entirety, or select one or more focus areas. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather a starting point on the what, the why, and the how of supporting educators' SEL. Due to the wealth of resources focused on system-level support, this toolkit focuses on what educators can do to support their individual growth."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources:"Teacher well-being", "Teacher stress", Coping, COVID-19, Coronavirus

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.