North Country teacher helps kids process pandemic emotions

North Country

SUNY Potsdam alumna Jennifer Hutchins worked for years to put a mindfulness training program into place in the Salmon River School District (photo: Jason Hunter)

POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWTI) — A teacher in the North Country is helping students to find tools to help weather the emotional side of the ongoing pandemic.

Salmon River School District Eighth-grade English Teacher Jennifer Hutchins is helping to provide students with new tools to work through emotional challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these tools include teaching students the concept of mindfulness by connecting them with a mindfulness leader.

According to educators, the concept of mindfulness has been proven to assist calmness and focus as many students have reported elevated levels of depression, anxiety and loss associated to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hutchins shared the mindfulness techniques focus on breathing, movement and emotional awareness in a non-judgmental context. It does not involve advice, counseling, yoga or spiritual nature.

“We want to be guided by science,” stated Hutchins. “With COVID, we need mindfulness more than ever. In general, there has been a shift in the education field to an understanding that there needs to be work done in the social and emotional area in order to bring students into their academic potential.”

She added, “there are many tools for different things, including heartfulness and forgiveness. The student picks the tool, and the leader guides them through its use.”

Hutchins in a SUNY Potsdam Teacher Education program alumni and has spent years organizing recourses, explaining mindfulness concepts and has lead the ongoing initiative. At Salmon River School District, Hutchins has trained 15 participants.

Additionally, her work was funded by a grant from the American Federation of Teacher and six practitioners are employed at the district through a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation.

The program lead by Jennifer Hutchins is available to any Salmon River School District student and a similar effort is beginning at Massena Central School District.

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