Uplift Education continues to innovate and put students’ and teachers’ well-being first by adding Dr. John Gasko as its Chief Well-Being and SEL Officer. This addition to Uplift’s innovative and robust wellness and social emotional learning team will not only ensure that Uplift students have access to regular and reliable preventative and supportive mental health practices but will also build the necessary mental health and well-being practices for the adults who serve students each day.
“I am honored and grateful to have been offered to be of service to the Uplift family—a family where deep commitment and purpose collide with the call to transform life outcomes for kids—and doing so in a way that ‘uplifts’ and supports the teachers on the frontline each and every day” Dr. Gasko said.
Years of research shows a highly effective teacher in the classroom is the most important factor in ensuring strong academic outcomes of all children, however, teaching is often a stressful career. A recent poll by NPR named teaching as the 4th most stressful profession in America, behind active duty soldiers, police officers, and working parents (in that order). One could say the stress on teachers is even more amplified given that many of them are simultaneously working parents.
This point is further supported in local data by Commit! stating last year Dallas-Fort Worth needed approximately 7,000 new teachers across the region to fill open position with stress and burnout being among the leading causes of why teachers state they left the field. A summary of the best research in the field suggests that there is a reliable formula that reinforces the NPR poll, namely that untreated stress in teachers leads to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of self-efficacy, all of which leads to burn out and attrition.
Dr. Gasko has coined this term as “teacher dropouts” and feels the issue is as critical to address as student dropouts. Dr. Gasko also believes there are ways to stem the tide and recover hope and purpose, by intervening early and often in order to keep the best teachers in front of students. Since students need positive, secure attachments as a critical ingredient to feel a sense of belonging in school, a constant stream of interrupted adult presence in the classroom due to turnover hinders those relationships.
Uplift has led the sector on its approach to student health and wellness for the past several years. In the 2018-19 school year, Uplift further built out its campus-based mental health programming by ensuring each school had its own dedicated social counselor. These 40+ mental health professionals have the sole responsibility of focusing on Uplift students’ mental health and support families through times of crisis. Additionally, as a result of House Bill 3, Uplift prioritized families and wellness by announcing earlier this year an all employee six-week family leave program. Uplift has a history of meeting the needs of its schools and the adults that make this network shine as an early adopter of teacher performance-based compensation in 2010 and introducing nearly a decade ago “Wellness Wednesday” which provides a once a month half day off to employees.
“In education we tend to focus more on teacher skills development, and at Uplift, we recognize the commitment it takes to be a teacher of excellence which is why I am so excited about adding Dr. Gasko to our team. Dr. Gasko will focus on the adult social emotional learning work that is so critical to not only, well-being, but also, I believe will help teachers be better classroom leaders for the long run. Teacher sustainability along with high student achievement is where we want to lead both locally and nationally,” said Yasmin Bhatia, Chief Executive Officer.
Dr. Gasko served most recently as Special Advisor to the President, and previously Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Texas at Dallas. In his time at UNT Dallas he founded the Emerging Teacher Institute, which is committed to transforming teacher and school leader preparation through competency-based education combined with innovative and rigorous clinical and social emotional learning.