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In the spring of 2010, Managing Stress to Improve Learning was merely a concept, one without a funder or participants. It did, however, have two passionate World Education staff members determined to make it a reality. Two years later, after securing funding from Jane's Trust, a private foundation, this fully-developed project has served over 350 students, reached over 400 adult basic education practitioners, and trained over 35 practitioners in adult basic education programs.

Teachers have learned about the effects of stress, trauma, and adverse life experiences on the brain and learning. They have also been mentored in curriculum and teaching approaches to reduce stress, promote well-being, and practice healthy coping skills for themselves and their families. Creative communities emerged in classrooms from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Somerville, MA to Sullivan, ME, Exeter, NH, and Colchester, VT. With support from the Managing Stress project, students, teachers, and counselors embraced innovative approaches to prepare students for learning and to promote mental health.

Yoga in the classroom? Why not? Women at Project Hope, a women's education center, were trained in simple yoga postures and deep breathing as a way to reduce stress and are now training other students. Shoe sculptures? Students loved it! Altered shoes became a metaphor, a way for students to reflect back and forward on their life journeys and dreams for the future. Music and song at the Haitian Multi-Service Center, complete with percussion instruments, helped recent arrivals and those mourning lost loved ones to find strength in traditional rhythms and new American songs.

Drawing from trauma research and theory, expressive therapies, multiple intelligences, mind/body research, art, and activism, this project enhanced the daily lives of hundreds. In addition, practitioners at national conferences have been educated on best practices that have emerged from the project.
In the words of one seasoned adult ESOL teacher who participated in the project, "This was the most significant staff development project I've ever been involved in, and I've participated in many in my career. I'll never teach the same way again."


At A Glance

To equip learners in adult basic education programs with strategies for managing a high level of chronic stress that interferes with effective learning and the ability to reach life improvement goals for themselves and their families.

Geographic Coverage
Greater Boston, Maine, and New Hampshire

Adult learners, teachers, and counselors in adult basic education programs

Description of Design
Two year project offering Intensive institutes and workshops for teachers; curriculum and website development; dissemination of research and best practices to wider audiences through conferences and publications. Participants were given stipends and continual support. Read more about the project design here.

Increased capacity for adult learners to cope with adverse life conditions and stressors as they relate to learning and persistence; increased capacity for practitioners to implement stress reduction and the promotion of mental health into classroom practice; added to the knowledge base in adult basic education about the role of chronic stress and learning.


Participants in the Project:

World Education
Lenore Balliro - Project Director
Benjamin Bruno - Web Design and Project Support
Caye Caplan - Fiscal Fitness

Haitian Multi-Service Center, Dorchester, MA
Jean-Louis Daniel - ESOL Teacher
Alice Nelson - ESOL Teacher
Phillip Howard - GED Teacher

Project Hope, Roxbury, MA
Jeymi Arroyo - Learning Advocate, ESOL Women of Strength Teacher
Sarah Bayer - Coordinator of Educational Assessment and Counseling; Women of Strength ABE Teacher
Grissell Sanford - Learning Advocate Women of Strength Teacher
Joan Rivera- Learning Advocate Women of Strength Teacher
Shalise Hammond -Learning Advocate Women of Strength Teacher

Sumner Adult Education Center, Sullivan, ME
Ronda Alley - Student Advisor, Teacher
Sally Daniels - College Transitions Teacher

The Welcome Project, Somerville, MA
Jeri Bayer - ESOL Teacher
Lisa Gimbel - ESOL Teacher/Program Coordinator

Vermont Adult Education Center, Colchester, VT
Louis Giancola - ESOL Teacher
Linda Snow - Employment Specialist

Exeter Adult Education, Exeter, NH
Amy Smith, LISCW - Counselor
Brittanie Mulkigian - ABE and GED Teacher

Consultants for the Project
Michelle Harris LMHC, ATR-BC - Lesley University, Cambridge, MA
Marta Casas, MA - The Trauma Center, Brookline, MA
Myrna Anne Adkins, CEO - The Spring Institute, Denver, CO
Patty Contente - Somerville Trauma Response Network, Somerville, MA
Krina Patel - Stir a Memory Project, Boston, MA