Irving ISD Spotlight: Wellness Opportunities For Our Teachers and Staff
Founded in 2019 by a striking idea from Superintendent Magda Hernandez, the Employee Wellness Initiative began to provide support and guidance to all Irving ISD employees. Strategist of Employee Wellness and Support Services, Jose Villasenor, tells us about the opportunities this initiative offers.
Today, he continues to strive towards that vision in his current position. Having been in education since 1996, Villasenor has captured a full perspective about the field by formerly serving as an elementary school teacher and school counselor. Before his current position, he was the Social Services Coordinator at Plano ISD and Director of Responsive Services at Irving ISD.
As a strategist for the Irving ISD wellness initiative, Villasenor would now directly accompany employees going through a crisis or hardship struggle and help them find resources to aid their situation. He says, “this included helping them feel heard and cared for.” As he began to know the employees more, he realized what they had in common. He learned that the 4 major influences that impact many of the Irving ISD employees are:
- Mental and Emotional Health
- Physical Health
- Financial Wellness
These 4 influences became known as the 4 Pillars of Wellness of the initiative. In action, these pillars are seen through the numerous class opportunities offered by the program. The Employee Wellness Initiative promotes its pillars by “presenting professional learning classes concentrating on relieving stress and avoiding burnout.” Through partnerships with companies such as Yumlish Nutrition, Camp Gladiator, the University of Phoenix, and TCG Advisors, Villasenor and his team work toward hosting classes on healthy eating, exercise, financial wellness, and much more! These programs are offered to all Irving ISD employees! Teachers, administrators, security, food service employees, and custodial staff are all included! The taglines that the Initiative lives up to are:
- Support the Spread of Wellness
- Wellness is for all shapes, all sizes, all the time.
All of the hard work is made possible by the newly expanded team working with Villasenor. With this year’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, the initiative gained some new additions to their department. Villasenor works daily with 3 licensed professional counselors (LPCs), 3 employee cluster leads, and 1 compliance assistant. Villasenor calls this his dream job! “I enjoy helping people. We are providing wellness programs that we hope will improve the health and well-being of our employees.”
Previously, Villasenor worked alone in this department. With the team’s expansion, the LPCs are now available to see any employee to provide professional counseling at no cost while the Leads aim to provide wellness classes and events with awareness through their newsletter, social media, and campus and building contacts. Make sure to follow them on Twitter at @iisd_wellness!
Some of the programs currently offered include free memberships to exercise classes from Camp Gladiator and Sunstone Fitness, massage events across all campuses, and Foundation99 (their newest program yet!), a financial wellness program offered in both English and Spanish.
“Our main goal is to help our district become an employer of choice. We hope to be one of the programs and initiatives that makes Irving ISD an amazing place to work” says Villasenor. As he presents the initiative’s values, he emphasizes that “[they] work hard to make the world fair for all people. Wellness is for all shapes, all sizes, all the time. If you set a wellness goal and you do not meet that goal or you pause it, we are here when you are ready to continue working on it. Our values include:
- Fairness: We believe that “wellness is for all shapes, all sizes, all the time.” This includes equity, availability, equality, and accessibility for all employees.
- Holistic Well-Being: We encourage whole-person well-being: mind, body, and soul.
- Authenticity: We stand for and exhibit honest, open, and responsive interactions in our work. This provides the foundation for trust and psychological safety.
- Growth = Change: Wellness means the courage to grow and thrive across all four pillars: mental and emotional health, nutrition, exercise, and financial well-being.
- Respect: We believe that through respect and empathy, we can build a culture of support, collaboration, and harmony.”
Each and every program of the IISD Employee Wellness Initiative is rooted in the 4 pillars of wellness and each of these values. All current and upcoming resources and opportunities available can be found at https://www.irvingisd.net/Page/603.
Villasenor says, “This is just the beginning. We will continue to promote Ms. Hernandez’s vision and support the spread of wellness.”