Difference Makers: Mindful Life Project Brings Calm During Crisis

Students and teachers learn to navigate stress during the pandemic.
Photo credit Courtesy The Mindful Life Project

A Bay Area non-profit is helping teachers and students navigate stress in and out of the virtual classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mindful Life Project is working with the Pittsburg Unified School District to provide mindfulness training sessions online as families learn to adapt to virtual learning. The effort is meant to support the mental and emotional well-being of teachers, students and their families during times of uncertainty.

"The practices of mindfulnesses can counter that overwhelm, so we can just be here and not too worried about what might happen in the future. It’s just about being present," Founder and Executive Director JG Larochette said.

Heather Davis-Puerzer, who teaches first grade at Foothill Elementary School in Pittsburg, told KCBS Radio she’s been using breathing and meditation exercises to manage the stress of becoming an online teacher.

"I started having migraines every day," Davis-Puerzer said. "It helped me become more focused, more hopeful and have more energy."

She now records "Mindful Monday" videos for her students to help with their ability to learn during the pandemic.

"It’s really helpful for the kids to learn how to regulate their emotions and learn how to have moments of calm in their life," Davis-Puerzer said.

​Yvonne Nelson has also experienced a sense of peace that she’s transferring to her work as the school principal.

"If we focus on some of the good things that are happening, it changes our perspective as we move forward in the work," Nelson said.

Students have benefited from the training, too.

"We’ve seen students increase attention, suspensions have dropped dramatically and teachers have become much more responsive and less reactive," Larochette said.

The Mindful Life Project currently serves 22 schools in nine cities across the Bay Area.

If you know someone who is working to keep us safe during the COVID-19 crisis and would like to nominate them for KCBS Difference Makers, email us at differencemakers@kcbsradio.com.