Jackilyn Wallace has been teaching for 18 years. What attracted her as a Team Unbreakable coach at the Elms Junior Middle School in Etobicoke was its connection to mental health. “I was able to let my students know other kids were running and feeling good and it had positive effects on their mental health.”
The Grade 7/8 teacher for the Toronto District School Board started running about eight years ago and found it to be a great way to clear her head and relieve stress. “The ‘runners high’ felt great. So, I decided to use running for an activity on our daily physical activity sessions. They were short, about 15 minutes. I took the kids out for a dynamic stretch, 1k run around the block and a stretch after. They loved this daily routine and I found they were calmer and focused better after.”
“In the following years, students who were no longer in my home room classes also wanted to continue to run, so I began a school run club. The support from Team Unbreakable was fantastic, and we had more students running with varying abilities.”
Jackilyn says the impact on students has been positive. What is priceless is seeing the beaming faces of students who finish and proudly receive their medal at the culmination run at the end of the semester. She is pleased that many students who become “Unbreakable Eagles” feel more socialized and the runs are helping with their overall mental health and helping advance more positive behaviours.
“I watched students grow out of their shells as they progressed in running and made friends with other students they would not otherwise speak with. Just as I look forward to our runs, the students did too. We went from one day a week to two and now three!”
“The running logs helped record what I saw on their faces many times, They came to the scheduled run looking down or exhausted, but after completing their run, there were more smiles and students looked energized.”
Jackilyn thanks the charity for helping to spread the message. “We now need more programs in our feeder schools, as many students who leave, miss the runs.
Students at the Boys Leaders Academy are part of a culture that balances academic excellence with personal leadership, character development and innovation. The Academy is located within the Elms Junior Middle School, in Etobicoke.