Jordan School District Creates ‘Zen Center’ Break Zone for Teachers

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WEST JORDAN – The past two years have been difficult for students and teachers. Schools across the country have tried to meet these needs by borrowing ideas that may not have been part of traditional schools. The Jordan School District came up with an idea for teachers that others might want to follow.

Teachers have been stressed by the demands of the pandemic, staffing shortages and typical teaching demands. They are also stressed by all the things that stress the rest of the population, like inflation and the housing crisis. So Jordan’s school district recognized that it needed a quiet space of its own.

“The teachers were going through a tough time. So they started as soon as they could,” said Cody Owen, who was enjoying some peace and quiet at the Zen Center at Sunset Ridge Middle School in West Jordan.

Owen is an eighth grade American history teacher. He was taking a break, enjoying a massage chair, the tranquility of a body of water, and clearing his head at the Zen Center.

“(It’s) a great place to come and be… You know what? I need to relax,” he said.

In front of the students, teachers must keep their cool. They have to keep their struggles inside, no matter what they are.

“There are some little things you have to let go,” Owen said. “So it can really get to you. So having a little quiet space to be like…take a deep breath, we’re here.”

The Zen Center provides a space for teachers to let go of whatever is troubling them and rejuvenate. “It’s your quiet space where you can kind of let your stress melt away a bit, take a breather before getting back into the fray,” Owen said.

A space that meets the needs of a teacher in a way that the home school could not.

“If the adults aren’t well, the kids don’t stand a chance. So we need to be at our best while we’re here in the nest,” said Audrey Fish, manager of Sunset Ridge.

Fish said he borrowed the idea from the student wellness room.

“The one for adults is called the Zen Center, and the one for children is called the Zen Den.”

They started the Zen Den for students before the pandemic.

“It’s a really used space,” Fish said.

Recognizing the wellness challenges for students and teachers, the district now has student centers in all schools and plans to add rooms in each school for teachers.

“A space for them to just be if they want to be,” Fish said. “We don’t have check-in, check-out. It’s who wants to come and use it. But they can come and take a minute.”

It’s a way to ensure that students and teachers have productive days.

“The main reason you teach is that you want to help students,” Owen said. “And, you can’t help the students if you’re about to jump down their throats.”

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