‘Letting our teachers know they're loved’: New program to offer support, coping skills for local teachers during pandemic

Sierra Rains

Teachers have been essential to educating our youth for decades and remain crucial amid the COVID-19 pandemic where they are dealing with the extra weight of caring for themselves and for their students. 

The situation can easily give rise to extra anxiety — something local doctors have been seeing on a personal and professional level. To help remind teachers that they are loved and supported, and to share some practical skills for coping with them, the local community has joined together to organize a program including several events for teachers at local elementary schools. 

The Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative, in partnership with Dr. Mike Carnahan, Dr. Jahannah Jamelarin and other local mental health providers and community members, will be hosting the first event, titled “Teaching with Hope: Self-Care and Support for Teachers in a Pandemic” for Plainview Elementary teachers this weekend. 

The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 11 at the Colvert Ministry Center, located at 503 West Broadway Street. More dates are to come for pre-k through fifth grade teachers at Ardmore elementary schools, including Charles Evans, Lincoln, Jefferson and Will Rogers, and Lone Grove, Dickson and Springer elementary schools.

Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative Director Ellen Roberts said the goal is to put together a community support network for teachers at each school and help inspire them, while also providing them with some practical skills they can use if they are feeling anxious. 

“It’s very much a community effort and the event is to let our teachers know that they are loved and they are supported, and then to also provide them with some practical resources as they are dealing with the extra weight of caring for themselves and caring for their students, teaching in the midst of a pandemic,” Roberts said. 

The event will begin with a pre-recorded inspirational message from a veteran teacher with Ardmore schools, Debra Fields, followed by a pre-recorded presentation by Dr. Jamelarin, a local psychiatrist. Dr. Jamelarin’s presentation will cover some practical coping and self-care skills teachers can use. 

“It’s applicable to teachers and really would be applicable to anyone dealing with the extra anxiety right now,” Roberts said. “It’s inspirational, it’s encouraging, but then there’s also some really practical things like grounding exercises — kind of some thought patterns that might be helpful to break out of.”

The bulk of the program will be a facilitated discussion to give teachers an opportunity to connect with each other and a local support system, and share both funny and difficult experiences. The event will wrap up with a message focused on hope, Roberts said. 

With the help of many community members, goody bags will also be provided for all of the schools. Roberts said more information about the event can be found on the Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative Facebook page, and teachers are asked to sign up for the event through Eventbrite. 

“It is free but we are asking teachers to register through Eventbrite because we are keeping the event socially distanced, we want to keep those numbers where they need to be,” Roberts said. The event will be capped at 50 people to allow for adequate spacing. 

Over the next couple of days, the links to register and specific dates for each school will be posted on the group’s Facebook page. The events will be held on Sundays all the way up until Dec. 13. 

“I really hope that we can just gather around our teachers and show them that they have the support of the local community and then also give some practical skills too,” Roberts said. 

Anyone with questions can contact Ellen Roberts at (405) 517-9753 or eroberts@lighthouseok.com. Teachers can also reach out if they need support and Roberts can help connect them with the most helpful resources. Anyone who would like to contribute to the goody bags is also encouraged to reach out.