HARTINGTON — Alecia Heimes, Wynot, recently named the Employee of the Year for the Education Service Unit, has shown why she deserved that honor in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has strangled a nation.
Heimes is a school psychologist and represents the Northeast Nebraska ESU No. 1.
The ESU services about 20 area school districts. Her focus has been on grades K-12 in the Hartington-Newcastle district for the last few years. Currently, she works for the public and private schools in the Hartington and Newcastle areas. Now her work is done online.
“Initially it was for students that I primarily worked with on social development – social skills, social-emotional learning – so sometimes it can be therapy,” Heimes said. “For me the focus is on social development and understanding themselves more. I don’t want to create a dependency on me as a person or another.”
She had to find a new way to get her message out when the schools all closed their doors.
“I wanted to continue that, so I created this YouTube channel through my ESU account. They are 10-15-minute lessons and I did a yoga workout that was a little longer,” she said.
Heimes wants to educate her students on mindfulness and elements such as the mind-body connection – and the tricks that the mind plays on people and gets them into “trouble.”
“What can we do about that?” Heimes asked. “It’s about bringing awareness to our human nature and bringing tools and practices … and meditations. “I think it empowers people and can be a tool that people can try to have a sense of control, while now everyone has no sense of control.”
Her lessons have evolved to allow adults to engage in the classes as well. Feedback she has received has been positive.
“We are all human, whether we are a child or an adult,” she said.
Heimes worries about the mental health for everyone as the pandemic and stresses grow.
“This was going to create isolation and that’s usually correlated to worsen mental health and lead to economic turmoil for families,” she said. “I truly believe if we can find and connect with the power within that then when those external things happen in life – as they always do – we can ride the storm out a little bit better. We are in a really big storm right now.”
Heimes emphasized that if people use it as therapy that is fine, but her focus is skill development, and yet, if things during these times are “triggering” for people and someone comments on the video in an area she is not able to answer, she cannot risk the liability.
“They can email me with questions or if they want to learn more about something,” Heimes said. “One student emailed and was excited to be able to see me in that format. From what I have heard, the teachers are really enjoying learning about it and the breathing practices. When you are breathing you are able to tap into your autonomic nervous state to go into a more peaceful state, even if there is chaos around us.”
Classes have been closed through May and a chance exists that any return is moot, but Heimes may continue with the channel.
“Everything evolves, but that is my intention,” Heimes said. “It’s not like it ends when the school year ends. The idea of this is to help people find these tools every day. I establish that in the lessons and try to motivate them enough to understand how their bodies work so those lessons will be there.
“Even if I am not uploading new videos, I feel good about those tools and resources being available to them and, hopefully, they might start looking into other yoga practices or coping tools. Hopefully, it opens other doors to them.”