IUSD Announces Partnership with Harvard Expert


Caitlyn Kim and Catherine Rha, Staff Writer and Section Editor

IUSD announced a partnership with Harvard expert Shawn Achor, called Optimistic Household. This program consists of six interactive modules specifically designed for IUSD families to encourage social and emotional wellbeing.
These modules will include teachings on how to practice positive psychology, a topic studied by Achor for over a decade at Harvard, as well as lessons encouraging a risk-taking educational mindset. These modules are accompanied by a video as well as activities such as quizzes and challenges.
Achor is the bestselling author of the book The Happiness Advantage, Harvard expert in the field of positive psychology, and has given multiple TED Talks over the past few years on happiness and potential.
“The neuroscience and data behind these principles reaffirms that students, who possess hope and optimism and embrace mistakes as part of the learning process, can become adaptable learners and succeed at higher levels both academically and personally”, IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker stated in his email.
These modules will be released on the IUSD website every two weeks starting from May 22, continuing through early August. The modules require a password that was sent out in Superintendent Walker’s email.
Walker first announced this partnership during the IUSD Board Meeting held on May 5th.
“We have been working on this partnership for months and… this is the first time they’ve ever done something like this with a school district. I’m very excited,” Walker said.
According to IUSD board meeting agendas, the program cost $30,000.
Although Achor has worked with over 100 school districts to guide learning protocols, a partnership between Achor and a school district to create a program specifically for families is unprecedented. The implications of this partnership will be studied in order to improve future projects similar to this.
“We want to make sure that what we offer has a positive effect, which means we need to research the impact…  we are getting requests from around the world to help,” said Achor in an email interview.
Teachers, like Mr. James Alvarado, are in support of any programs that will help to reduce student stress.
“We have been put into an extremely difficult situation that not everyone is prepared to navigate alone and from what I have seen, Optimistic Household is a good way of giving tools to those who might need assistance navigating an online environment”, said Alvarado, who is a Blended Learning teacher. “We want them to know there are tools that they can access that can help them navigate what we are all having to deal with.”
Students, such as sophomore Wyatt Mackellar, believe that the modules are useful because of the struggles students face while balancing school along with their mental health. He believes this partnership will be useful in educating students and families on this topic.
“Due to all the stress school puts on us we often don’t have enough time to balance our mental health with school work and it takes a toll”, Mackellar said. “I think that it’s important that school systems take extra steps to help their students maintain their mental health.”
IUSD families can access Optimistic Household here.