Newark teachers focus on mental, emotional healing after challenging school year

By Jessie Gomez

In a room full of Newark teachers, Thomas Luna, a seventh grade science teacher, took a moment to reflect on the previous school year filled with unprecedented challenges.

Luna jotted down his thoughts in a notebook while other colleagues in the room sighed as they remembered what it feels like to be an educator during the pandemic. When they were done, some took turns sharing their reflections with the group:

“Expressing how I was feeling was really important to me.”

“I needed space.”

“It was hard to focus.”

Their fellow teachers, sitting at desks, snapped fingers and nodded heads in appreciation.

They were healing, said Dr. Wenimo Okoya, founder of the Healing Schools Project, who led the exercise for KIPP Rise Academy teachers on Thursday, the week before students return to their classrooms.

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