Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in November to celebrate the opening of a new spa-like room for teachers and staff on their campus.
The room is not a teacher’s lounge; it’s a peaceful space for teachers to unwind and decompress.
Gutierrez Library Media Specialist Leticia Almaguer wrote the grant and led the Zen Room project.
“I know teachers have a lot of hard work,” Almaguer said. “I can’t guarantee to make it go away, but I hope this room can help make them feel better. We started painting the walls back in September, and once that was done, I was able to clear everything out and start getting all the furniture set in place and then started putting decorations up on the wall. But it feels good to be in here. It’s peaceful.”
The Zen Room features dim lighting, spa music, a waterfall, massage chairs, and other furniture and decorations.
“We are excited to be able to share this with our teachers,” Gutierrez Principal Mike Reyes said. “This is for them. It is for all of us. The entire staff can use it. In here, we can get a few minutes to gather our thoughts and then go out there and attend to the 823 kids that we have at Gutierrez Middle School.”
The room was made possible by a $5,000 Teacher Innovation Grant from the Harlingen Area Educational Foundation that the school applied for in the Spring of 2022.
“One of the most important careers that anybody could have is to be an educator,” HAEF Board President Belinda Cavazos Zapata said. “As HAEF started to fundraise, one of the things that we do is we have Teacher Innovation Grants. This is one project, in particular, that was so important to the group when we saw it come through. We are excited to know that you now have a space where you can come and breathe for just a minute before you go back out and do what you do best, which is teach our children.”
Gutierrez Band Director William Bennett was among the first to see the room and try out the new massage chairs.
“I did not know what to expect,” Bennett said. “I was really shocked when I first walked in. When they said ‘zen’, I thought it would be just one small cubicle, but it’s a big room with very comfy chairs. They are really good massaging chairs. I would like to thank the HAEF committee for this generous donation to our school.”
Superintendent Dr. Alicia Noyola expressed gratitude for everything that HAEF does for the school district and its students.
“We all recognize that we can’t do everything alone,” Dr. Noyola said. “One of the things that I think we are most blessed with as a school district is having the support of our community, but also having an organization like HAEF that recognizes that the reason we exist, and the reason we are able to do things for our children and do them better, is by doing them together. I thank HAEF for recognizing how critical mental health is to teachers, students, and everybody else. Typically, Teacher Innovation Grants are for what happens inside the classroom, but what happens outside of it is just as important. So, thank you to all of our HAEF members.”