WHY EUSTRESSIN'?: KORTNEY WATFORD
If you follow me, you know that I am from Bertie County, a rural community in Northeastern North Carolina. Many believe that nothing much comes from the area, but I can let you know that this is far from the truth. Kortney is a young lady that I have known for much of my life and someone that I use as a resource when I need help with coming up with ways to work with my clients that live with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
As the Lead Exceptional Children’s Pre-K Teacher, Kortney manages to perform at school as an educator and in school as a counseling student. I recently had the opportunity to chop it with her.
HEY KORTNEY, WHY EUSTRESSIN’?
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING/ HOW LONG?
I am the Lead Exceptional Children’s Pre- K Teacher within the Bertie County Schools district, for going on 9 Years.
I was also the 2014-2015 “Teacher of Excellence” for the Exceptional Children’s Program and the 2015-2016 Bertie County Schools’ District Teacher of the Year.
I serve on the District Autism problem-solving team and have had extensive training within the area of Autism Spectrum Disorders from the TEACCH Program and UNC-Chapel Hill.
DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IN YOUR PROFESSION?
I think about mental health within my profession on a daily basis. I work with the Special Needs population and often times; these students come to me with mental health concerns and sometimes already have a diagnosis receiving treatment. It is important that I not only focus on their academic needs but that I address their mental health needs as well in order for them to be successful both in the classroom and outside of the classroom.
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DO YOU ENCOUNTER SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR JOB THAT HAS AN IMPACT ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH THAT OTHERS MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT?
Working with young children on a daily basis already presents some challenges, but when you add in special needs, it is a whole new ball game. I take my students on as my own and I give them 110% of me. This does not stop at 3:30 when they leave to go home. I am constantly thinking about them, advocating for them and doing what I can to ensure their success. I am always trying to find resources that can improve their quality of life and this often times happens when the school doors are closed and I am at home with my own family. I spend a lot of time with my students throughout the school year, so it is natural that I share this concern for their well-being outside of work.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WHEN TAKING ON DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES?
I work full time and I am enrolled in the Counselors Education Masters Program at East Carolina University. I am also the mother to a 6-year-old daughter, Kiley who is involved in extracurricular activities, so I lead a very eventful life. When considering my current workload, taking care of my mental health is a must. I have to make sure that I am balancing all of the activities in my life, but ultimately making sure that I find the needed alone time to simply take care of me. Whether it’s simply taking a drive alone to clear my mind, reading a few chapters in a favorite book or taking a bicycle ride down the road, I must take the time needed to ensure my mental health. Without it, I would not be effective with carrying out my duties.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE THOSE STRESSORS ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
I make sure that I surround myself with positive people who understand what duties and roles that I have. This helps a lot because they offer support and they do things to help lighten my load. My co-workers are a huge support system and they step in whenever I need anything. When I have classes or meetings to attend, they will offer to pick up my daughter from school or run errands for me. This really helps to keep my stress levels down and reassures me that I can accomplish all that I need to.
HOW DOES BEING MENTALLY HEALTHY HELP IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK OR ON THE JOB?
In order for me to be effective and provide the services that are needed for my students, I must be healthy mentally. Due to their young ages, my students don’t understand that Ms. Watford had a long night at class and stayed up all night working on assignments. They just need for me to be a great teacher for them who provides them with rich learning opportunities in a healthy environment, so I have to make sure that I am healthy mentally so that I may do what is expected of me.
WHAT DOES EUSTRESS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU AT WORK? AT HOME/AWAY FROM WORK?
I absolutely love my job, but of course, sometimes it gets stressful with deadlines. Often times I use this stress to motivate and push me to work harder in order to accomplish my goals. I use this Eustress to stay motivated and improve my work ethic.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD TELL SOMEONE JUST STARTING IN YOUR PROFESSION OR A YOUNG PERSON WHO ASPIRES TO BE THE PROFESSIONAL THAT YOU ARE?
I would let new and upcoming teachers know that they can be successful in the teaching/education field. I understand that it does get stressful and it may feel like it is too much at times, but find a good support system and manage your time appropriately. Sometimes you won’t be able to get all of your work done in a day, but go home, REST, regroup and give it your all the next day. Don’t take the stress of the job home with you. I understand that this is often easier said than done, but sometimes you just have to check things at the door and leave work at work.
Any other information you want people to know about you and what you're up to?
I have recently decided to focus on Mental Health in Rural Communities and will be researching more about this topic with plans to provide services, support and raise awareness for this population as a future Licensed Professional Counselor.
HOW CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU FOR MORE INFORMATION?