“This is a whole new group of kids. Today, our children are exposed to marketing and advertisements that promote all sorts of unhealthy behaviors. This requires us to think and teach differently if we want to effectively communicate to today’s generation and encourage meaningful change. Our partnership with Well-Ahead Louisiana allowed us to do just that.”
You only need to spend a few minutes with John Stewart before you experience his exuberant passion for children and their health. Before long, you’ll share his excitement and motivation! His passion is infectious. As the Physical Education and Health teacher at the Louisiana Key Academy in Baton Rouge, John makes it his mission to ensure the children he works with are given the tools and information they need to grow up healthy and live productive lives.
Louisiana Key Academy is a small charter school that serves children with dyslexia. Being part of a small, close-knit team of teachers and administrators, John is quick to acknowledge that, like so many other people in this profession, he has to wear many hats. Aside from daily instruction, John leads innovative health programming and serves on various school committees. When he first learned about Well-Ahead Louisiana, the innovative WellSpot designation program and the ways in which schools could get involved, it immediately piqued his interest. But with so many competing priorities and responsibilities on his plate, he was unsure if he had the time to get his school on the path to becoming a WellSpot.
“Elena Keegan, our Well-Ahead representative, was extraordinarily helpful throughout this entire process,” said John. “We could not have made it across the finish line without her persistent guidance. She even came by the school and conducted a yoga class for our second graders: they loved it!”
Louisiana Key Academy began its WellSpot journey in early 2020 and has now moved up to a Level 2 WellSpot. The school is a tobacco-free site and a breastfeeding-friendly workplace. They also promote self-assessment tools and have built a School Health Advisory Council that works to identify ongoing needs and room for improvement when it comes to strengthening health policies.
As with everything else he is involved in, John has taken his school’s WellSpot achievements far beyond the required benchmarks.
“I think one of the greatest benefits of the WellSpot program was that it forced me to think outside of the box.”
John developed the use of “brain breaks” and encouraged his fellow teachers to get their students engaged in physical activity throughout the course of the day in order to avoid them getting the “wiggles” and becoming distracted. He was surprised at how quickly the idea caught on and the overwhelming response he received from teachers and students.
He then developed the “Golden Lion Award”—a trophy that gets awarded to the class that goes above and beyond to promote healthy habits. A golden lion picture is placed above the classroom doorway so that the entire school can recognize their achievements.
As far as advice for other schools thinking of becoming WellSpots, John says the key is finding the right champion. “You have to find that person at your school, maybe someone already involved in the health and wellness space, that is going to take this idea and run with it. As for me, I’m deeply involved in sports, and I’m a competitive person. I didn’t just want our school to go through the motions and become a Level 3 WellSpot. I wanted us to take it to the next level!”
“This is so important for our children. All of us here at Louisiana Key Academy want these kids to grow into their best possible selves. Well-Ahead Louisiana plays a big role in that. Becoming a WellSpot isn’t a difficult process, but it does require time and persistence,” John noted
Focusing on health and wellness is important for all Louisiana residents. By implementing small changes to improve the health environment of your school, you can help your employees thrive and ensure that your students develop healthy habits for their future. Reach out to Well-Ahead Louisiana, and we’ll help get your school started on the path to becoming a WellSpot.
Learn more about the evidence-based benchmarks and how we’re working to move Louisiana’s health forward!