The new Health and Wellness team is off to a strong start this year! As we previously shared, this year, we formed a new and expanded department focused on our community's physical and mental health and well-being. Our department is guided by the work of the Well-Being pillar of the strategic plan, and we have big plans for this year. Already, we have made strides this year to improve the well-being of students and adults here on campus. Dr. Samantha Hillyer, Director of Health and Wellness, shares, “I am so excited about the work that we get to do around well-being this year, really focusing on providing the skills, mindsets, and priorities for students to go out and make the world a better place while still minding their own well-being.” The Well-Being pillar includes three overarching goals: defining, integrating, and communicating Well-being for our Overlake community.
As the Strategic Planning working group for Well-being prioritizes defining well-being for Overlake for the first time this year, they are immersing themselves in research about well-being from K-12 education, higher education, and industry to ensure our definition feels relevant at Overlake and beyond. The school is conducting focus groups with middle schoolers and will move to upper school to learn more about how students see well-being as they seek to balance it with achievement.
While we wait to formalize and communicate our definition of well-being, the team is not standing still with their programming and integration of the work into the life of the school. Programming abounds throughout the middle and upper school for students and employees. Time has been carved out in the schedule for programming during advisory and Wellness block time, including our recent assembly on the Culture of Grades and its impact on well-being. For our adults, dozens of employees participate in personalized and group physical well-being sessions with Joey Swidler, Overlake’s Strength and Conditioning Coach.
From the program side, the school continues to build a curriculum around social-emotional learning (SEL). This December, five employees will attend training at Yale’s RULER program for emotional intelligence and bring this expertise and content back to campus for implementation. Space Between has also been contracted to work on campus with US and MS students at least once a month to build mindfulness skills in students. They have already been able to practice and utilize these daily. In addition, our Life Skills teacher, Laura Triebold, continues to build on her existing curriculum to emphasize well-being and incorporate sexual health into the program.
As we continue to build, implement, and reflect on our programming, the school will continue to communicate our work to parents and our community to ensure a partnership between everyone who supports our students. In October, Dr. Hillyer partnered with our Student Support office to have a ParentNet discussion with 9th grade parents about how they can talk about well-being with their students to ensure students are building well-being practices across school and home. We are also working to ensure that our admission process prioritizes well-being to prospective families.
Finally, we are measuring our progress in defining, integrating, and communicating well-being through our institutional research program and the surveys we administer regularly to students, families, and employees. Our family engagement survey has run twice already in 2017 and 2022, and will run again this fall to help us better understand where our community stands on well-being. This fall, we will also share the executive summary of our student survey from 2023, called the High Achieving Schools Survey (HASS), with families so that we are prioritizing feedback from students about their well-being. The HASS and the employee engagement survey will also run again, later this school year.
The work that the team is taking on in 23-24 will ensure that the school can better live its mission and fulfill its vision, with well-being at its core. We will be unveiling Overlake’s definition for well-being this winter and will discuss more about our findings from the HASS as well. We look forward to inviting parents to join a Parent Seminar in January to learn more about what can be done to support our students and how we can partner in our students' well-being.
The Well-Being strategic plan pillar is led by Overlake's Director of Health & Wellness, Dr. Samantha Hillyer ('01)