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Excel Academy Network Pilots Innovative Wellness Program to Address Teacher Burnout

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

BOSTON [12/15/2021] – Seeking effective methods to address and reduce teacher burnout, three of Boston’s four Excel Academy charter schools have enrolled in educator wellness platform Spark by Gabby (spark). Built by a former teacher, spark has contributed to measurable improvements in Excel Academy teacher well-being through a mind-body model that focuses on stress management and internal resiliency.

Before the additional stressors of COVID-19, teacher burnout caused 44% of educators to leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. Lack of retention negatively impacts student achievement and imposes significant, chronic burdens on school budgets, particularly in schools serving low-income students and students of color. As a Washington, D.C. pre-K and kindergarten teacher passionate about education and justice, Gabby Lubin’s own struggle with burnout was devastating; she decided that though she needed to leave the classroom, she wouldn’t turn her back on the issue of helping teachers like her pursue their passions in the classroom with vigor.

As COVID-19 lockdowns took effect in March 2020, Gabby led a virtual high-intensity interval training (HIIT) fitness class for more than 50 participants that ended with a mindful moment. “There was this special feeling, and I recognized it as the feeling I’d been missing after a stressful day in the classroom,” explains Gabby Lubin, founder of spark. “It ignited a spark in me – I knew that teachers needed holistic support with tailored tools to manage stress, and I realized that I could build a wellness platform that gave them these tools by combining fitness with mindfulness.” In pursuit of this vision, Gabby earned a specialized master’s degree in educator wellness from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education while building spark, a wellness platform for educators that combines mind-body, community, and social justice to prevent teacher burnout.

One of spark’s early participants was Katie Pereira, principal of Excel Academy in Chelsea. Interested in how spark approached fitness and wellness differently, Katie agreed to host a pilot program for a small educator cohort in February 2021. Educator-reported data from the eight-week pilot showed a 20% increase in work-life balance, a 20% increase in decision-making ability, and a 10% increase in energy and ability to support others. This prompted three of the four Boston-area Excel Academies to enroll in school-wide subscriptions, offering their entire staffs access to the platform’s live and on-demand classes.

As a platform built by teachers, for teachers, with more than half of its staff being current or former educators, spark classes go beyond fitness to provide teachers with a toolbox of stress relief strategies that they can apply in the classroom. With instructors’ first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges facing teachers, spark focuses on internal resiliency to promote health and manage stress.

“It’s important to me that spark was created specifically for teachers because the instructors set realistic expectations - I like being able to work out with someone who understands the struggles behind teaching and the fact that our days look very different, and who can find unique ways to motivate me,” explains Tasheka Nelson, a seventh-grade Special Education teacher at Excel Academy-Greenway, who was introduced to spark after an engaging school-wide health and wellness initiative in 2020. “I also like being held accountable by the people I work with, who can text me to check in - that helps me stay committed to the workouts.”

With the success of the Excel Academy-Chelsea pilot, spark has grown to 15 schools across Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., serving 500 educators. Teachers may sign up as individuals for $12.99/month, or their schools may purchase a school-wide subscription at Access is made affordable through generous contributions by sponsors who seek effective ways to support educators.



spark by gabby is a GabbyL. Wellness, LLC business. Guided by the core values of mind and body, community, and social justice, spark works to increase teacher retention through customizable, continuous, and financially-sustainable wellness programming for educators. Spark uses research-based approaches to design wellness experiences that promote cognitive and physical health. Our unique mind and body model blends the best of studio fitness with the science of mindfulness. Live and on-demand sessions, the spark platform and app, personal coaching, and professional development are some of the services offered by spark.

Spark was founded in March 2020 at the start of the Washington, D.C. COVID-19 lockdown. Built in a time of need for movement and understanding, spark has grown into a space where educators and community members find genuine connection through daily stress relief. Former educators make up over 50% of the spark team. Together, we strive to transform the industries of fitness and education through wellness services that interrupt teacher burnout. The work of spark goes beyond any single class. We are a community driven to make a difference in ourselves and the world. By partnering with us, you can also choose to make meaningful change.

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