CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – It has been a challenging few school years for many students. They’ve had to deal with major learning hurdles because of the pandemic. One of the main goals in Kanawha County Schools this year will be to focus on social and emotional learning to help students and teachers be their best.

This week, Kanawha County Schools hosted a kickoff meeting for school counselors. They worked together to come up with goals for their schools in the upcoming year.

“We know that a student’s social and emotional skills are highly correlated to their success in the classroom, to their success at home, to their relationships as well as to their future success,” explained Jon Duffy, Director of Counseling for Kanawha County Schools.

They’ll use those ideas to help guide their students by putting strategies in place to help young people improve academically and when it comes to preparing for a career.

“So when they find themself mad at someone on the playground they can use these coping skills to get themselves calmed down and walk away and not let it go any further,” explained Cross Lanes Elementary School Counselor, Nola Willard.

The school system is even doing a survey soon to assess the social and emotional needs of students at the beginning of the school year so they can target those areas where the students need extra help and support.

Kanawha County Schools will also launch some new programs targeting teachers and their mental health as well.

“There’s a direct connection between a teacher’s wellbeing and the students they are teaching,” Duffy said.

Just a few years before the pandemic disrupted school, the Clendenin and Elkview communities in Kanawha County were impacted by catastrophic flooding that wiped out schools and forced students to be moved outside of the area to learn.

Five schools in the Herbert Hoover High School feeder area will be testing out a program called edwell. The edwell program launched nationally in 2020 at the height of the pandemic when many were trying to deal with instability, fear and anxiety. The program offers educator specific mental health coaching.

“We had a flood, natural disaster in the Elk River area,” Duffy said. “That community has been impacted for years. So we offered it to those principals and they felt like it would be an benefit to their staff. They’ll be able to receive support and coaching on an array of areas from their professional performance to their personal mental health.”

School leaders say if edwell is beneficial in that area, they may expand the opportunity to other schools.

“Teaching is a challenging profession,” Duffy said. “So it can be very stressful. Fewer and fewer people are choosing teaching nationwide.”

Another teacher specific program this year is TeacherWISE. It is focused on teacher wellbeing. That program was developed at Georgetown University.

You can find additional mental health related resources here.