Jennifer Schwester, aka Jennyzenyoga, has been providing yoga services and trainings to many underserved populations for over four years, including special needs adults, senior citizens, first responders, and her high school French classes. Jennifer brings her 24 years’ experience as a French teacher to the mat. She has been practicing yoga for the past 8 years and expanded her practice by becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). Jennifer is currently completing the next 300 hours of Yoga Teacher Training with My Vinyasa Practice in Austin, Texas to become a RYT-500. She is also an Instructor for Yoga For First Responders and a Teacher for the Veterans Yoga Project.
She has presented Mindfulness, Meditation, Chair Yoga, and SEL workshops for various school districts as well as many state, regional, and national language teacher associations as well as half and full-day workshops for school districts and CEU classes for NJ EMT providers.
When Jennifer is not at high school or on her mat and offering Yoga Classes, she is walking her dogs in the fresh air and at the beach!
Trench story: Was in 2014. Had a very long commute. Switched schools for shorter commute in 2013. Chugging along. In May was blindsided w/ medical diagnosis. Had breast cancer. No family history. Ignored it for a few months. Was 42 years old with young kids. Was at school- stayed late, screamed when got diagnosis. Had chemo, surgery during school yr. Wanted to keep things low-key. Had to make some changes. Didn’t have arm strength. Couldn’t write on board. Wanted to feel like self so someone suggested go to yoga class. Didn’t go for ripped muscles but quieting monkey/crazy mind. Her students started noticing. They said they needed to have their brains not race. Started with juniors. They needed a reset. Very large school for NJ-1500 kids. Started asking ? “why”. Had to know everything as a teacher so went to yoga t training. New students asked if they were going to meditate. It wasn’t for the sake of “getting out of something” at school. Wrote out script in French. Saw how much the kids needed it. Hasn’t shared yoga w/ cancer survivor groups. In 2018 school brought in more SEL activities. Edit out cough. Over next 4 years, evolved how to bring mindfulness, meditation, yoga into the classroom to encourage using them as tools. Help them lower affective filters. Explains how to share how to bring mindfulness into classroom. She helps NJEA & with others how to do so w/o certification. We plant seeds, we don’t know when they’ll bloom in our classrooms. Her caveat is don’t be disruptive to those who are benefitting from it. Emphasizes teachers’ need to take care of themselves.
Teaching French/combining it with French & languages to help teachers and students. 24 years teaching. Didn’t start practicing yoga until 2014. Got a yoga teacher cert in 2018. Was a gym rat, wanted to do yoga for continued movement. Got her thru the pandemic. It also helps her with unpredictability with change in admin. Still enjoys teaching Fr. Shares how we can think about ourselves & students as well. Her students came up with ideas to do yoga in French class. Breath work. Students pay attn to self, not just devise. Looking at someone in the eye, not being on devise. Organically developed, had no idea it would branch into this.
Can talk about how to weave yoga into the classroom. Low prep ways. How does it look during a class period? She reads the crowd as they come in. Makes sure lights are low. Greets them at door. Inhale/exhale in French. It’s a fresh start. Does a game/speaking activity as warm-up. Ties into the whole SEL. Gets woven into the whole class period. Getting to know then, they can say which activities they like to do. Breathing is essence. Not the “western” viewpoint of crazy poses. Kids take deep breath before a test too. She has her kids for 3 yrs. They know the routine. Sometimes will pull out yoga mats and/or go outside. Doesn’t have to be a traditional full practice. She sometimes does this b/c she needs it. A Lot of students have body image issues, those who are in (gender) transition as well. She’ll modify the setups, poses based on what kids are wearing etc. Belly breath starts to massage vagus nerve. It sends a message to brain to settle down- low prep way to get students to settle down & get in moment. Also doing various poses in chair- seated mountain. Identifying body parts in TL. Growing your tree. Zentangles, origami, adult coloring books, weaves them into sub plans.
Works with Firefighter/EMS, police for mindfulness as well. Is involved with 2 intl. groups. Yoga for First Responders, Veterans yoga project. Husband in healthcare has a podcast about toxic positivity. It’s OK to not be crazy or “great”. Physical workout, getting nervous systems to settle down/relax, training. Neurological resets. Their vocab/movement is trauma-based & specific to their background. Doesn’t use Sanskrit. Many of them won’t close their eyes due to trauma. She is kind of an outlier. Tough group to get through is based in CO. Physical integration of breath work. Some groups want it all- others want just breath & movement.
Can talk about naysayers who say SEL doesn’t cure much. She would say “you’re correct, it doesn’t cure”. Teaching life doesn’t define her, it’s ok she doesn’t react the same way. She doesn’t ask the “how was your weekend” question anymore. She talks about activities. Asks students which ones they do personally. Asks “if you had an extra 3 hours in your day, how would you spend it?”. Gives them ownership of what they want to talk about. She loves how she teaches and has grown off the way she has been since 2015. Has all French classes, every level. We can talk about how she stays in the field when many leave. She can talk about adapting materials. Reusing everything at all levels. Interaction is different.
Breakout sessions at conferences: How long and give highlights of what you do. Went to AATSP and AATF this summer. Will talk about encouraging proficiency using mindfulness. Influence SEL/mindfulness. Mindful compassion to ourselves. Zentangles. Calendar tasks. X-curricular activities. She is big on organic things happening. Started paper folding. Had 6 ½ days at end of yr. They did projects using folding. Can give links to these activities for these. Her focus spirals into diff. things. At end of the day, whatever the activity is, we’re making connection w/ st’s. She gives them low-prep quick ways to reach out to students. She shares a smidgen of what’s out there. It’s OK to not be your “rock star” self as a teacher either.
Recently returned from presenting at AATSP and AATF. Will be presenting at:
- Wisconsin Association of Foreign Language Teachers- 11/3-11/5
Key quotes…Do belly breath. Do it in car. Put your oxygen mask on first. I hope teachers will be able to find something for themselves out of it & still love teaching. We got into this to share, plant seed, we need each other. Click To Tweet
Find Jen online: Twitter: @JenniferSchwes2
View this episode on Youtube: https://youtu.be/RQHr00icvKM