August 20, 2014

Advice from an NYC Principal

Jean McTavish is a principal at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School in New York, New York. After joining the Healthy Schools Program, Jean and her school community have been creating a healthier environment for students and staff. And this year, they are receiving our Gold National Healthy Schools Award.

1. Make time for Physical Activity

It can be challenging to fit in physical activity, given all the other demands on students and teachers, but using creativity and flexibility can help.

That’s why three days each week, Principal Jean McTavish offers spin classes for her students, along with staff, parents, and community members before the school day begins. She wants students to learn that physical activity is a great way to start your day – and to help manage stress.


2. Stay Vigilant: Setbacks Happen

Creating healthy environments is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind, set clear goals and expectations, and not be discouraged!

When trying to make changes in an organization as large as The Office of School Food and Nutrition in New York City—which serves 1.1 million students each day—Principal McTavish has had her share of struggles. She advises that school champions must be patient, but stay vigilant. “It takes between five and 1,500 repetitions for learning to happen in the classroom. For institutions, it takes closer to 1,500,” she said.


3. Remember Students Are Watching!

Kids are perceptive and they look up to teachers and staff at their schools. Every adult in a child’s life has a chance to be a role model, whether they plan to be or not.

Principal McTavish is well aware of the responsibility she has to model positive behaviors for her students. Starting the day with spin class is one way she sets an example for them to adopt healthy habits. She also supports employee wellness by advising school staff to choose foods and beverages responsibly, showing students that they, too, follow their own guidance to lead healthier lives.