Wellness education surrounds Andover students both inside and outside of classes. Susan Esty, the current designer of wellness education at Andover, was appointed the Director of Wellness Education for next fall, a new position at Andover.
Esty, along with the four course heads representing each grade, Aya Murata, Associate Director in College Counseling; Erin Strong, Instructor in Theatre and Dance; Anny Candelario-Escobar, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science; and Taylor Ware, Associate Director in College Counseling will work together to develop the empathy, balance, and inclusion classes.
Beginning with alcohol and drug education in the 80s, according to Esty, wellness education has expanded to address self care and life issues, such as in Personal and Community Education classes. The Andover community is taught to think about oneself and others through wellness education.
“I think we felt that there’s a lot of new programming that we are providing for our students that is requiring more and more coordination. We have so many folks on campus who are really excited and qualified to do this work, and we felt that we were needing a champion of wellness… Just as we have a medical director and a director of psychological services, it made sense to have a director of wellness education too,” said Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life.
Esty is trying to identify students’ needs and engage with community partners to develop the curriculum. As of now, Juniors are taking Foundations, a program similar to P.A.C.E. designed for Juniors, during their English red dot period and will take Endeavors next year as Lowers.
“I think the importance of [wellness education] is reminding everybody in this community that we have to learn about it and think about it like any other topic in our lives… Even though those are skills that we may have, we don’t always practice them. Or maybe there are skills we haven’t developed because they’re not traditionally academic topics,” said Esty.
Etsy is a trained counselor and a school administrator who has experience in the field of social justice programming and health. She also ran an advising program at another independent school and has developed a lot of wellness curriculum from there.
“She had a real wealth of first hand experience coming to Andover, and this past year, Dr. Esty has done a tremendous job working directly with students and partnering with colleagues in all parts of campus to be thinking about wellness in a broad sense and also in a direct and deliberate sense,” said Elliott.
Esty said that she wants to find synergy and bridge different parts of campus such as the office of Community and Multicultural Development, the Brace Center, Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center, where she works now, academic classes, and more. She also wants to continue working with the athletic department, which has been incorporating wellness education into the Physical Education curriculum for decades, according to Esty.
According to Elliott, the community around wellness education is thinking about how a four year program during the day can be deliberately incorporated into students’ lives, complemented by the residential and advising programs. She wishes to establish a shared vocabulary with the Andover community around wellness.
When asked about what she looks forward to in undertaking the role of Director of Wellness Education, Esty said, “I feel so passionately about wellness that what I look forward to is just spreading the word around this campus. There are many opportunities for students and I think we get really busy and don’t always stop and smell the roses… I see my role as a bridge between different groups and a partner with lots of different people.”