lesson series

Mental Health & Us

This course is designed to support educators in their role while navigating mental health in the school system. While acknowledging that educators are not counsellors, we can explore the foundational and systemic role that mental wellness plays in our schools. Mental wellness is indeed a foundation for learning: without addressing it our students are not always ready to engage in critical thinking or to demonstrate their most authentic learning.
In this course you will also engage with unlearn posters to explore your own position as a changemaker in the school environment. We will also consider the intersectionalities that impact our approach to mental health in the system. 
To make this a tool that you can use right away, you will also learn about some of the ways that mental wellness routines can be embedded into the wonderful programming you already offer your students. 
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Course Overview

Role of The Educator & Impact 

Inclusivity & What We Carry

Building Community & Setting the Stage

Collecting Tools & Building Habits

Course Lessons

Jennifer Zajacz Smolenaars


Hi there! My name is Jen and I’ve been teaching in elementary schools across Halton for over twenty years. 

I began my career teaching Kindergarten and almost ten years ago I made the transition back to teaching intermediate students. I noticed that all students need to know what to expect, how to manage big emotions, how to interact with others (face to face and online), and how to cope with stress. In addition to this, they need our guidance with navigating current events, oppression, sexual identity, harmful language, and more.

A few years ago I was selected to work with School Mental Health Ontario and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario to help develop an online tool called the Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource. 
Patrick Jones - Course author
I’ve also acted as an Equity and Inclusive Education representative for my school for the past five years and integrated community voices into school programs. Through exposure to diverse representation and storytelling, I try to guide both students and staff to disrupt dominant narratives and stereotypes, develop critical thinking skills, and challenge them to reflect on equity and social justice in the world around them.

Lately I’ve been working with unlearn to create equity-focused lesson packets for elementary and secondary teachers to use in their classrooms as well as an e-course on Mental Health. I’m also currently working with the Public Library to incorporate social justice programming for young people in the community.