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How to navigate divorce while pregnant Balekian Hayes Family Law Shares What to Expect When Getting Divorced While Pregnant in Texas

Sometimes, pregnancy and divorce go hand in hand, and expecting mothers may find themselves splitting from their partners. Because like many other major life events, pregnancy can add tension to even the strongest relationships. Whether expecting parents are concerned about finances, the child's paternity is in question, or the new baby merely adds more tension on top of a pressure cooker of emotions, divorce may be on the table.

“Realizing that your marriage must come to an end can be devastating at any time—but even more so when you're expecting,” says Kris Balekian Hayes, president of Balekian Hayes, PLLC. “Having a baby is stressful, and the experience can challenge even the best of marriages. A baby's birth usually brings about role changes, lifestyle adjustments, and financial struggles that both spouses can find frightening. As the arguments increase, the tension may build, until divorce becomes the clear outcome.”

The following tips will help expecting mothers navigate ending their marriage during this physically and emotionally demanding time in their lives: 

  • Find out if your state will allow you to get divorced while pregnant. For example, Most Texas courts will not grant a divorce to a married couple if the wife is pregnant. Texas courts prefer to wait until after the baby is born to address paternity. The court can then determine if appropriate child-related orders, such as child support, need to be included. 
  • Surround yourself with a supportive entourage, and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help. 
  • Find a good lawyer. This means finding a lawyer that specializes in family law and divorce. By hiring knowledgeable counsel, you will save time and stress because they can help you understand your rights, determine the best course of action for your unborn baby's custody, and break down the legal jargon for you.
  • Create a co-parenting plan. Both parents should be involved in a child's upbringing, so you and your partner should create a shared parenting plan that works for you. You will have a lifetime of dealing with the other side even after a divorce if you have children, so try and start on the right foot with flexibility and generosity.

The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with Balekian Hayes, PLLC visit: https://www.bh-pllc.com/contact/

Founded in 2009 by Kris Balekian Hayes, the family law attorneys of Balekian Hayes PLLC are dedicated to fighting for their clients and their clients’ children. From contested divorces, to child possession disputes, to out-of-court mediation and arbitration proceedings, the firm provides the knowledge and expertise needed to help people during what can be one of the most stressful times in their lives. To learn more about Balekian Hayes, visit https://www.bh-pllc.com/.

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Uplift Education public schools will open September 21, 2020 for in-person learning with new precautions in place to keep kids safe. Given the positive health news and the robust measures we have taken for safe in-person learning, we will begin welcoming back our students to school in a phased approach for those families who selected our in-person and hybrid learning options.  100% remote learning will continue to be an option for those who choose it. We know that our preparedness, compassion, and nimbleness will guide us through this challenging time.

Over the past 3 weeks, we have had over 20,000+ students engaging with us on a daily basis.  Uplift is providing technology devices, such as Chromebooks, to all of our students free of charge. Some large ISDs have just started the fall school year and we’ve been growing our new muscles on virtual learning and parent engagement for weeks.  We will continue to be nimble, responsive to feedback, and optimistic learners. As we prepare to resume in-person learning, we have outfitted schools with temperature monitoring stations, hand cleaning stations, social distancing reminders & signage, proper ventilation, mask mandates and many other safety precautions.

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19. Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic with our return to in-person learning in a secure and safe manner. It will not be perfect, there will be curves in the road ahead. But we owe our students and the educators who serve them the greatest measure of clarity and consistency we can manage in an unprecedented situation,” said Yasmin Bhatia, Uplift CEO.

All of our students were equipped on day one with the technology they needed, including a brand-new Learning Management System, to dive into the world of full-time distance learning.  It did not take long for us to hit our stride with the “new normal”, and now our students are enjoying school days balanced with academics, physical activity, well-being check-ins, and critical breaks away from the screen.

In a time of a lot of confusion and uncertainty, we find clear priorities help us mark the path forward.  As such, we want to share three priorities in the coming month for our schools and parents:

1. The health, safety, and well-being of our entire school community – students, staff, alumni, and families

2. An exceptional distance learning program and experience for students

3. Continued engagement and communication with our families and staff

 

There is no doubt school will look and feel different in the 2020-21 year. What remains the same is our commitment to you and your children to provide a high-quality, college-prep education and the support needed so everyone can thrive in these challenging times. We at Uplift are so thankful for the resilience and support our families and staff have shown through this pandemic and we look forward to getting through this together!

 


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Charitable giving is a hot topic this fall, with more and more organizations seeking support leading up to the holiday season. The Warren Center, a nonprofit agency providing professional evaluations, therapy services and support to children with developmental delays and disabilities seeks assistance from the community to continue serving more than 1,000 children each week.  

The community can help The Warren Center by participating in the following activities:

  • Attend a Fundraising Event – Help serve children with developmental delays and disabilities by sponsoring a table at one of The Warren Center’s premier fundraising events.  
    • The next fundraising event hosted by The Warren Center will be the annual Fantasy Football Draft Night event held on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. The annual event is going virtual this year, but will provide fun competition with the opportunity to help children with developmental delays and disabilities reach their full potential. For more information about upcoming events and services, please visit www.thewarrencenter.org.
    • Amazon Smile – Shop on smile.amazon.com and 0.5% of your purchases will be donated back to The Warren Center! Simply select The Warren Center as your charity of choice when you sign up at Amazon Smile. 
    • In-Kind Gifts – The Warren Center will accept donations of goods and services, and other gifts, ideas, and resources that help us serve the children and families that need our services. Community members can support their mission by offering their time, talent, or treasure.
    • Kroger Community Rewards  Visit Kroger.com’s community rewards program to learn how you can link your Kroger Rewards card to give back to The Warren Center. 
    • Tom Thumb’s Good Neighbor Program - You can help your favorite charity when you shop Tom Thumb and use your Club Card/phone number. Visit tomthumb.com to link The Warren Center’s account number to your individual Loyalty account and your purchases will credit the organization’s account. 
    • Create a Birthday Fundraiser on Facebook – Two weeks before your birthday, you will see a message from Facebook in your News Feed, giving you the option to create a fundraiser for your birthday. You can create a fundraiser for any of the 750,000 US nonprofits available for fundraising on Facebook. Your friends will receive a notification inviting them to support the cause in honor of their friend’s special day. For more information about birthday fundraisers visit, facebook.com.
    • Make a Donation on North Texas Giving Day — Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day is an 18-hour online giving event designed to empower every person to give back to their community by supporting local nonprofits and causes they care about in one easy-to-use platform. This year, the 12th annual North Texas Giving Day will be held on Thursday, September 17, 2020. To support The Warren Center on North Texas Giving Day, visit northexasgiving.org/thewarrencenter

The Richardson-based nonprofit provides therapy and support for over 3,000 families every year. Each day, the need for services continues to grow. The CDC estimates one in six children have intellectual or physical disabilities or delays. In Dallas County alone, over 102,000 children have a developmental disability. The period between birth to five years is a time of rapid development. The earliest possible intervention is critical due to the accelerated brain development during these first years of life. Early childhood intervention programs have been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, and labor market success. 

Before the pandemic, The Warren Center staff traveled to 48 zip codes and more than 1,000 homes each week to serve children in need. The nonprofit’s offices also served more than 200 children on-site for clinic-based services. Providing physical therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and social support is essential to help children with disabilities reach their full potential.

When shelter-in-place orders were issued in early March, The Warren Center pivoted its offerings to give clients HIPAA compliant virtual therapy sessions to help families stay home. Virtual appointments ensure children do not miss therapy sessions, their progress is not hindered, and parents still receive the help and support they need. With teletherapy, children can receive convenient, quality therapy services that they need from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual therapy sessions take place through a tablet, computer or smartphone. The Warren Center is using the WebEx platform to ensure security and privacy for each session. Unfortunately, for some families served by The Warren Center, they are unable to access teletherapy services and online learning because they do not have the technological support required to get online. 

“Sponsorships, fundraising from events and everyday purchases from Kroger, Tom Thumb and Amazon are just a few ways folks can help support programs for The Warren Center,” says Amy Spawn, CEO of The Warren Center. “Thanks to the generous support of our community, we are able to further our mission and expand educational programs and services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, developmental services, nutrition, family education and support for children with developmental delays and disabilities."

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The Uplift College and Career Fair is an annual free event that will be held Tuesday, September 22nd from 9 am-12 pm and Thursday, September 24th from 4 pm-7 pm for Uplift junior and seniors. This year marks our 13th annual College and Career Fair, hosted through Crowd Cast over two days. This event is very special to us as it is the first in many aspects; first two-day virtual College and Career Fair, the first time we invite our Uplift juniors and Uplift parents to attend the fair! This will be the first year that we include a parent component to the fair such as a Financial Aid Informational and other seminars in both English and Spanish. As we continue to grow, we anticipate that over 1,700 Uplift juniors and seniors will attend this year’s fair! We hope that the two offerings will give our students and our guests the flexibility needed to attend this event. The virtual space has allowed us to explore initiatives to expand access and incorporate stronger family engagement. 

Every year, over 100 post-secondary pathway representatives come from all over the country to share information with our students. Students have the opportunity to explore colleges/universities/military/careers over the course of a few hours. They ask questions, make great first impressions and some are even invited to interview for scholarships at different universities in October. This event kick starts the college application process for our seniors. 

We are particularly excited because Day Two of the fair will offer a host of sessions for families to learn about the Road to College and Career initiatives that will impact their student as well. There will be sessions on Career Planning, Financial Planning, and remaining engaged throughout the school year. All of these sessions will be offered in both English and Spanish. 

 

The Uplift College and Career Fair helps students develop confidence and lays the foundation for their life today, and their future. By uncovering strengths and unique skills, students will see their own potential. This event helps junior and senior students: 

•Understand their unique strengths 

•Connect their interests to careers 

•Set goals for their current and future plans 

•Develop self-knowledge and personal motivation

 

Uplift is dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for students, regardless of their ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds, by providing equitable access to high-quality education, programs and experiences that empower students to reach their highest potential. Uplift’s unique Road To College & Career program is unparalleled in how we prepare our scholars for life after high school. Through events like the College and Career Fair, we help students discover their strengths and passions and learn how those might translate into a college major or future career that will help them reach their long-term personal goals.

 

Uplift Education

Uplift Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of teachers, families, and, most importantly, students. With a network of 43 college-preparatory, public charter schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Uplift offers students of any background the powerful chance to study within a multidisciplinary curriculum and prepare for the college career they deserve. Uplift is the largest International Baccalaureate district in Texas and the #2 IB district in the nation because of the number of holistic extracurricular and educational programs. The incredible educators in the Uplift network guide and teach nearly 20,000 students in Pre-K- 12th?grades, with the majority being low-income and minority students who will be the first in their family to attend college. For more information Uplift’s mission and their blind lottery selection system, visit?uplifteducation.org?or?facebook.com/uplifteducation

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People are wisely choosing to help slow the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing, working from home, and self-isolating, all resulting in spending more time at home and online. With more time indoors and easy access to the couch and bed — many people may be experiencing more aches and pains that come with living a more sedentary lifestyle and spending more time in front of a screen. However, physical therapy treatment can help restore the body’s function and movement while also promoting healing and pain relief. Physical therapy helps patients of all ages with medical conditions, illnesses, or injuries that limit their abilities to function normally. It also helps encourage an active and healthy lifestyle to maintain overall health and well-being. Incorporating stretching and strengthening movements each day will help relax tense muscles, reduce aches, make you feel better overall and can help conquer virtual meeting fatigue. 

“Many people may find that they are spending more time in virtual meetings than ever before. During these unprecedented times we have been able to keep working, laughing, sharing, learning and connecting with others online via Zoom.  It’s important to know your Zoom limits and practice healthy habits because, like any good thing, you can Zoom too much,” said Dr. Thomas Werner, from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. “To combat ‘Zoom Doom’ or virtual meeting fatigue, as well as other physical reactions to a less active lifestyle, it’s important to keep moving, eat healthily and get plenty of rest. As we learn to adapt to changes caused by COVID-19 around the world, we must remain vigilant in performing activities that have great benefit to our health.”

Here are a few valuable tips from Dr. Thomas Werner, and other physical therapy professors from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, to help prevent “Zoom Doom” and alleviate common aches and pains caused by a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. 

  • 20-20-20 Rule. Remember that your eyes keep working, whether you are sitting or standing. To avoid eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20-second break by focusing on something at least 20 feet away. 
  • Good lighting and positioning when keyboarding. Check lighting frequently when working from home. Avoid bright lights near windows, which may cause excessive glare, and low lights in interior rooms that may cause strain on the eyes. Select a keyboard with sharp contrasting colors on the keys to prevent squinting and excessive head flexion. 
  • Check your desk’s ergonomics. Make sure your monitor is at eye level and your chair height is positioned so both feet touch the floor. Don’t forget to adjust keyboard positioning, if able, to allow shoulders in a relaxed neutral position, elbows bent and supported on arm rests, and wrists in a neutral position.
  • Stretch your hamstrings to reduce back pain. Tight hamstring muscles are a frequent contributor to lower back pain. Hamstring muscles start at the hip and run down to the back of your knee behind each thigh. Stretching should be done twice daily and regularly for 30-60 seconds. This has been proven to be effective in alleviating back pain. Try to incorporate stretches into a daily routine, such as when getting up every morning and going to bed each night. You can do simple stretches at home with everyday household items, including the towel stretch, chair stretch, or wall stretch.
    • Towel Stretch: Lay down on your back, hold each end of a rolled-up towel and wrap it behind your feet. Then pull your leg up in front of your body to feel a slight stretch in the hamstring muscle.
    • Chair Stretch: Sit in a chair, place one leg straight out on another chair in front of your body. Reach your toes and stretch one leg at a time.
    • Wall Stretch: Lie on the floor, with the buttocks against a wall and your legs against the wall. Try to push your knee as straight as possible. This stretch is gentle on the lower back because it places little stress on the low back, and your body is supported while lying down.
    • Relieve neck pain with these three simple stretches:
      • Neck Tilt – Sit in a chair, bring your chin to your chest, hold it there for five seconds, and then bring it back up. Repeat four more times.
      • Side to Side Neck Tilt – Sit down, stretch your left ear to touch your left shoulder. Hold it there while counting to five, and then bring your neck back up. Do the same thing on the opposite ear. Repeat for a total of five times. 
      • Neck Stretch – Stand up straight, bring your chin forward and keep it there for five seconds. You should feel pressure in your throat. Bring your chin back to where you started, and then bring it backward and keep it there for five seconds. Repeat each stretch for a total of five times each. 
  • Get moving. If you can, go for a walk outside for 20-30 minutes each day – be sure to heed social distancing guidelines. Exercise improves cardiovascular health and mood, and increases Vitamin D production. Further, it can reduce pain or stiffness perceived in muscles and joints. 
  • Consider telehealth physical therapy. Telehealth is becoming increasingly popular because it enables patients to see and talk to their health care providers, from the comfort and convenience of their own home. During a private telehealth appointment, you will work one-on-one with your physical therapist, without any distractions. If you would like, you can also involve family members or caregivers in your appointment.
  • Manage your mental health. Depression and anxiety can increase the chances of developing chronic pain. To help reduce stress, prioritize self-care activities you enjoy, such as working out, connecting virtually with friends or family, reading a book, or making time for a new hobby.

The tips listed above are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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The Warren Center, a nonprofit agency providing professional evaluations, therapy services and support to children with developmental delays and disabilities is seeking assistance from the community to help special needs children go back to school with the technology needed for virtual learning and essential therapy services. 

For parents and caregivers of young children with developmental delays and disabilities, they may be concerned about  their child's progress during this interruption caused by COVID-19. When shelter-in-place orders were issued in early March, The Warren Center pivoted its offerings to give clients HIPAA compliant virtual therapy sessions to help families stay home. Virtual appointments ensure children do not miss therapy sessions, their progress is not hindered, and parents still receive the help and support they need.  Unfortunately, for some families served by The Warren Center, they are unable to access teletherapy services and online learning because they do not have the technological support required to get online. 

"Many of the young children we serve have chronic health conditions – and as a precaution, their parents and caregivers have decided to quarantine their families. Without internet access or a computer, these children are no longer able to receive the critical therapy services they greatly need," says Amy Spawn, CEO of The Warren Center. "As back-to-school dates draw near, the urgency to provide technology for special needs family continues to grow. More than 50 percent of the families we serve have an income below the poverty level in Texas. A donation of $175 will provide a tablet to a family in need.”

With teletherapy, children can receive convenient, quality therapy services that they need from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual therapy sessions take place through a tablet, computer or smartphone. The Warren Center is using the WebEx platform to ensure security and privacy for each session. The Richardson-based nonprofit provides therapy and support for over 3,000 families every year. Each day, the need for services continues to grow. The CDC estimates one in six children have intellectual or physical disabilities or delays. In Dallas County alone, over 102,000 children have a developmental disability. The period between birth to five years is a time of rapid development. The earliest possible intervention is critical due to the accelerated brain development during these first years of life. Early childhood intervention programs have been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, and labor market success. Before the pandemic, The Warren Center staff traveled to 48 zip codes and more than 900 homes each week to serve children in need. The nonprofit’s offices also served more than 200 children on-site for clinic-based services. Providing physical therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and social support is essential to help children with disabilities reach their full potential.

To help provide a tablet, internet access, set up, accessories and shipping to families with developmental delays and disabilities, it costs The Warren Center $434. To sponsor a family or make a donation of any amount visit, https://www.thewarrencenter.org.

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Best Lawyers®, the only peer-review guide to the legal profession, recently announced the 27th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© — adding Texas family law attorney Kris Balekian Hayes to the highly sought after list. To be recognized by the Best Lawyer in America publication, honorees are reviewed by their peers in the legal industry for their professional excellence in 148 practice areas. For the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America, 9.4 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in the inclusion of more than 67,000 lawyers, or approximately 5% of practicing lawyers in the United States.  

“I am honored to be recognized amongst 5 percent of practicing lawyers in the United States as a top lawyer,” says Kris Balekian Hayes, managing partner of Balekian Hayes, PLLC. “It has been a long journey to grow my business to where it is today. I started my business over 20 years ago, with only $2,000 to my name and zero clients. Today as a mom of four, I balance the challenges of caring for my own family while servicing hundreds of clients in Dallas’s competitive family law industry. I owe my success to my friends and family.”

Kris earned her law degree at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio after completing her Bachelor of Business Administration at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She continued her education by earning a Master of Business Administration at St. Mary’s University School of Business. With more than 20 years of experience practicing family law, she is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in family law. She is a credentialed mediator in all civil, family and CPS matters. Today she serves as managing partner of Balekian Hayes, PLLC, based in Dallas, TX.

Led by Kris Balekian Hayes, the family law attorneys of Balekian Hayes PLLC are dedicated to fighting for their clients and their clients’ children. From contested divorces, to child possession disputes, to out-of-court mediation and arbitration proceedings, the firm provides the knowledge and expertise needed to help people during what can be one of the most stressful times in their lives. To learn more about Balekian Hayes, visit https://www.bh-pllc.com/.

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North Texans are getting their meat fix this Labor Day Weekend, courtesy of North Texas’s favorite family-owned bar-b-que spot, Soulman’s Bar-B-Que. The Texas Triple Play, featuring Nolan Ryan Texas Angus Beef, is available to pre-order at all 19 Soulman’s locations throughout North Texas. The Texas Triple Play includes one pound of sliced Nolan Ryan Texas Angus Beef, one pound of Soulman’s signature sausage and one slab of tender ribs, cooked low and slow over hickory wood for only $49.99 plus tax. Customers can add on family size sides (32 oz) for $7.99. To top it off, a pan of banana pudding that feeds ten can be added for $10.99.

Soulman’s is honored to be the exclusive Bar-B-Que restaurant to carry Nolan Ryan’s premium, high-quality, all-natural beef in North Texas.

“Soulman’s Bar-B-Que has been part of North Texan’s Labor Day traditions for more than 45 years. Our addition to Nolan Ryan Texas Angus Beef this summer was met with raves from our customers, based on the freshness, flavor, and all-around feast that is the Texas Triple Play,”  says Brett Randle, CEO of Soulman’s Bar-B-Que. 

Pre-orders have begun at https://soulmans.com/texas-triple-play-pre-order-2020/ for pick up on Saturday, September 5, Sunday, September 6 and Monday, September 7 at all 19 North Texas Soulman’s locations. 

For more than 45 years, Soulman’s Bar-B-Que has satisfied the hardest to please bar-b-que lovers….Texans! Founded in Pleasant Grove, Texas in 1974, Soulman’s had only a few simple goals—serve great Texas-style BBQ and offer friendly, sincere service.  Soulman’s original family recipes are still the foundation for the company’s success from their 8 different types of meat that are smoked “low & slow” over only hickory wood to their famous homemade sides, including Ranch house beans and Texas style cream corn! Throughout the years, this family-owned and operated company has remained true to its original strive for success and customer satisfaction and is honored to be considered one of the Top Bar-B-Que Chains in America (2018). 

Soulman currently owns and operates 19 North and East Texas locations in AllenCedar HillForneyGarlandGreenvilleHurstLancasterLewisville, Mansfield, MesquiteQuinlanRed OakRockwall I-30Rockwall Goliad,Royse City Sulphur Springs, TerrellVan and Wylie. To learn more about Soulman’s Bar-B-Que, visit them online at http://www.soulmans.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/soulmansbbq.

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Soulman's Bar-B-Que Opens in Red Oak

Soulman’s Bar-B-Que opened their 19th North Texas location at 321 East Ovilla Road, in Red Oak, with their signature succulent bar-b-que and legendary homemade sides in a newly constructed building with home and hearth-styled décor. North Texas’ favorite bar-b-que will be serving up their meaty favorites in this new corporate prototype while looking forward to the official Grand Opening on a future date to be determined. 

“Red Oak is a great community that we have had our eyes on for quite some time. Soulman's is proud to become a part of it,” said Brett Randle, CEO of Soulman’s Bar-B-Que. “We are known for our excellent customer service and community involvement in each of the North Texas areas we serve, and Red Oak will be no different.”

What is different about the Red Oak location is the conception of layout and décor of both the interior and exterior in the new one-of-a-kind Soulman’s Bar-B-Que.

By marrying industrial touches with a personal down-home feel, this finish out has embraced more rustic details in weathered wood floors, booths and tables, large cedar beams and columns and clean stainless steel throughout. Even the presentation of meals on unique, parchment-lined metal trays has been upgraded from the traditional plastic trays. 

Opening a new location in an internationally turbulent time presented Soulman’s Bar-B-Que with ways to streamline health and safety precautions while keeping the business as fluid as possible. This location was finished out with occupancy and social distancing measures in place including plexiglass partitions between booths and adequate spacing measures in place.  

Randle says, “We activated operational and communication plans that best served our employees and customers. We are optimistic that we will continue our 46-year-old family-owned and operated restaurants with our existing and additional locations in North and East Texas for decades to come.”

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What if we reimagined how to support educators amidst the extraordinary stress and turbulence they face in their roles and prioritized teacher well-being to inspire and support well-doing for students?

Lao Tzu once said, “to care for the teacher is to love the learner.” For too long, there has been a silent epidemic plaguing our communities and schools—the alarming rate of teacher drop-out. The Commit Partnership publishes what these rates look like and the DFW metroplex loses averages of 6,500-7,000 teachers, each year. When asked why they left, teachers push the following reasons to the top of the list: toxic work environments, lack of respect and support, stress, and burn out. 

In 2018, Uplift Education leadership shined a spotlight on one of its schools where teachers and leaders were suffering to stay afloat and meet the needs of their students and families—and each other. Uplift Meridian, a primary school located in Stop 6, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Fort Worth, where only about 2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and where the crime rate is 42% higher than the national average, was struggling to catch its breath as it pursued success for its students. Teachers, leaders, and staff worked hard to provide a quality IB education amidst high levels of trauma and adversity that often proved hard or impossible to surmount. Teachers at Uplift Meridian tried harder and harder to help students feel safe and secure but neglected to pay attention to the toll that this work took on their own minds, hearts, and bodies. 

Rather than sacrificing teachers’ wellbeing in exchange for student support, Uplift Education offered another choice: what if we reimagined how to support educators amidst the extraordinary stress and turbulence they face in their roles? What if we prioritized teacher well-being to inspire and support well-doing for students? Thus was born a comprehensive approach to caring for people as Lao Tzu suggested. With generous support from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, Uplift and the Meridian staff embarked on a different kind of professional development journey that its facilitator and Uplift’s Chief Well-Being and SEL Officer Dr. John Gasko calls “not PD but HD, human development.” 

In collaboration with Dr. Gasko, educators from Uplift Meridian engaged in intensive HD that focused on vulnerability as a foundation—namely teacher voice and experience as something to be listened to and responded to—and achieving transformation by creating shifts in three areas of one’s life: (1) change one’s physiology; (2) change one’s focus; and (3) change the stories one tells oneself and others. Together, educators at Meridian did calisthenics, yoga, tai chi, and body-based meditations developed by medical professionals at the UMass Medical School. Gasko taught the tools of meditation—secular approaches anchored in neuroscience and positive psychology—that created more hopeful and optimistic narratives to remind educators of their fundamental worth and that they are superheroes in disguise. By interrupting negative narratives, educators at Uplift Meridian learned how to shift the language they used on the inside and the outside to radiate joy and positivity. 

The work was hard and naturally there was some resistance to the type of work Dr. Gasko introduced. It wasn’t uncommon for teachers to feel silly or question this use of their time when there were other tasks to be done. But over time, hopeful signs emerged. Some educators begin to experience what it “feels” like to not have to do one’s work while mitigating a migraine. One teacher said: “Wow! All I did was move my body a bit and regulate my breathing and the pain that I constantly feel in my jaw and the headache that persists disappeared. I like that feeling.” 

This teacher impact statement shows what a profound impact this had on Uplift Meridian: “I also think [Dr. Gasko’s] sessions shifted the atmosphere of our school from being overwhelmed, overworked, and distant to empowered, intentional, and one team. I’ve gotten to know people in the school that I would have never interacted with on a personal level. I can’t wait to see what’s next!”

The data suggests that the HD work Fort Worth teachers engaged in also led to the reversal of alarming teacher and leader dropout rates at Uplift Meridian. Instead of the school leader turnover the campus sees every year, this one stayed. The teacher dropout rate fell from 40-50% to just 5%, and there were academic gains for students, too. Schools can help students and families win without losing sight of the importance of the health and well-being of its greatest resource. Teachers are the heartbeat of America and our communities. Let us throw them lifelines so they can truly show up, be present, and be more supportive to each other and to the kids they serve. Remember, to care for the teacher is to love the learner.

 

Uplift Education is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of teachers, families, and, most importantly, students. With a network of 43 college preparatory, public charter schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Uplift offers students of any background the powerful chance to study within a multidisciplinary curriculum and prepare for the college career they deserve. Uplift is the largest International Baccalaureate district in Texas and the #2 IB district in the nation because of the number of holistic extracurricular and educational programs. The incredible educators in the Uplift network guide and teach nearly 20,000 students in Pre-K- 12th?grades, with the majority being low-income and minority students who will be the first in their family to attend college. For more information Uplift’s mission and their blind lottery selection system, visit?uplifteducation.org?or?facebook.com/uplifteducation