IRVING, Texas — As the lights dim and actors take center stage, you can find theater art teacher Season Mhoon in the middle of her classroom, directing her students to bring out their best performances.
This is one of Mhoon’s seven class periods at Travis Middle School at Irving ISD. She said she has anywhere between 16 to 32 students per class.
Once the bell rings and the students leave for the day, Moon is left to process her busy school day by herself. Sometimes she has a little company with a friendly face like Jose Villasenor.
“It’s amazing and a lot of work. So, I have an aide and three teachers,” Mhoon told Villasenor.
Villasenor isn’t just some colleague to Moon; he’s been a confidant, friend, and certified counselor, providing the necessary help to teachers at Irving ISD during these trying times.
“When they see that teachers are struggling and staff are struggling, they know who to call, and they get you guys in to help,” Mhoon said to Villasenor.
Mhoon is no stranger to adversity. She says she was in the streets of New York City when the World Trade Center was hit on 9/11.
“I do suffer from PTSD. I am a 9/11 survivor. I was on the grounds when the planes hit,” Mhoon said.
Mhoon is also one of many teachers at Irving ISD who have felt the weight of the ongoing global pandemic.
“I would not have been able to make it,” she said. “I lost many people.”
That’s where Villasenor and Irving ISD’s Employee Wellness Services have come into play. Villasenor has a passion for uplifting school employees and teachers and has been leading the charge of E.W.S. since its inception in 2019.
Even before COVID-19 struck, Villasenor and other administrators saw the need to provide mental health resources to employees like Mhoon.
“We have amazing teachers, we have amazing employees here, and we want to be able to provide a foundation that will help them remain here,” Villasenor said. The topic of retaining teachers and other school employees is one that is at the topic of school district’s minds across the country.
Villasenor said that EWS has grown in its staff size, hiring more certified counselors to meet the demand. They’re offering district-wide employees the option of monthly wellness classes, newsletters, or to take advantage of one-on-one sessions like Mhoon.
At this moment, Mhoon is participating in bi-weekly counseling sessions.
Before taking up the theater arts teaching job at Travis Middle School, Mhoon was a professional actress in New York City. She moved to North Texas with her husband and joined the school district three years ago. She says the pandemic, loss of friends, and distance from other relatives and loved ones has been tough.
“I’ve been so supported, so supported, and I thank you. Thank you, Jose. Love you to the moon and back, haha,” Mhoon expressed to Villasenor while they caught up in her classroom.
Villasenor says Irving ISD will continue to invest in EWS to ensure teachers and other employees are able to work with some more peace of mind.