Nick Mann is a Veteran of The United States Marine Corps where he served 8 years as an Infantry Officer. Since moving on from the Marines, Nick has been working with individuals and groups to change their lives through health, fitness, and nutrition. Nick is the owner of Occoquan Bay Fitness in Woodbridge, VA, runs an after school fitness program at Fred Lynn Middle School, and is the founder of TeacherFit, an online health and wellness program for educators.
We talk with Nick about how TeacherFit equips teachers and staff with the tools to change the culture of wellness, some roadblocks that can get in the way of wellness, and he shares some benefits of focusing on wellness.
“...teachers, they're turned on from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. And many of them are continuing to think about their students and what their students are doing in and out of the classroom even as they sleep. And it's just so hard to disconnect because, honestly, we see it and we've experienced it, that we just care so much about our students. And to be able to give educators an outlet, whether that be through just going for a run or giving them permission to do a yoga class for 30 minutes, or a workout to kind of de-stressed and take care of them. That's where our passion lies. Because we know if we take care of our teachers, they're going to be able to impact their students and care for those students at a greater level.”
— Nick Mann
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- John: Now on to today's show. Welcome to the CharacterStrong podcast where we have conversations on school, culture and leadership. Today we're talking with Nick Mann. Nick is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps where he served eight years as an infantry officer. Since moving on from the Marines, Nick has been working with individuals and groups to change their lives through health, fitness, and nutrition. Nick is the owner of Occoquan Bay fitness in Woodbridge, Virginia, runs an afterschool fitness program at Fred Lynn Middle School and is the founder of TeacherFit, an online health and wellness program for educators. Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Nick Mann.
- John: All right. We're very excited to have on the CharacterStrong podcast with us today. Nick Mann, the founder of TeacherFit. How are you today?
- Nick: I'm doing well. How are you? It's great to be here.
- John: I'm great, man. Well first of all, you are a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Thank you for your service. We appreciate the service that you've provided us all.
- Nick: Absolutely, thank you.
- John: Why I was excited to be introduced to you, because you do some unique work, and it's not that you know, health and fitness by any means is unique, but I love one the organization name TeacherFit, and I want to learn more. I want the people that listen to our podcast to learn more. Talk to me about the work that you're doing. What are some of the different ways that you're helping schools in the work that you're providing through TeacherFit?
- Nick: Yeah. So we are an online based wellness program that is specifically designed to meet the needs of educators. And through working in our local school system through an afterschool program, and working with educators to do kind of staff, afterschool health and fitness programs, we quickly realized that there was just a real need for self care, and nutrition health, and fitness in the teacher community.
- Nick: And as we all know, teachers are very busy, and stressed, and underfunded. So we tried to create a product that provides high quality fitness, yoga and nutrition coaching and classes to schools. And the difference between a typical wellness program that we've seen in school districts, that typical thing that we see is there's a website and when you go down the rabbit hole of wellness, you get to a PDF that says, yes, you should eat healthy. Yes, you should exercise. And that's it. And what we're trying to do is be proactive and give administrators at the school level, and at the district level, the tools they need to actually allow their teachers to take action. And we believe that through our app and our website that we're doing that and really changing the culture of wellness for educators.
- John: I love it, man. Well, I mean it's so true, isn't it? Like the educate, like an educator is so unique. Have you been in the classroom for 10 years at the high school level? And just knowing like that unique position where because you're caring so much about other people serving other people. And a teacher's brain never turns off. The work never ends because you're carrying not just what you're trying to do in terms of teaching content, but you carry the stories, the lives of your students with you home, on how you can best serve them, what they're going through. And so my guess is that creates a unique dynamic. It's not just that they're busy, it's the stress and the different things that is in this intensive manner. And then they get a month or so off to regroup and that's their mental wellness. It's like, okay, you get one month and then you're back at it again.
- John: What have you noticed that in the work you're doing serving teachers, that uniqueness of what they carry, that kind of prevents sometimes the roadblocks that would be getting in the way on that wellness side?
- Nick: Yeah, absolutely. And teachers, they're turned on from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. And many of them are continuing to think about their students and what their students are doing in and out of the classroom even as they sleep. And it's just so hard to disconnect because, honestly, we see it and we've experienced it, that we just care so much about our students. And I think the normal person outside of the education space doesn't really see that. And to be able to give educators an outlet, whether that be through just going for a run or giving them permission to do a yoga class for 30 minutes, or a workout to kind of de-stressed and take care of them. That's where our passion lies. Because we know if we take care of our teachers, they're going to be able to impact their students and care for those students at a greater level.
- John: I love it. So there's a couple of different angles that could go here. So I want to come back to then, how is this playing out? Like for example, we were introduced to you by Fred Lynn Middle School, Jonathan Alsheimer there, as well as Hamish Brewer, who many know and they have made a commitment to this. He has given access to all of his staff. So maybe talk a little bit about how is this actually played out, right at the ground level, for example, with the educators at Fred Lynn.
- Nick: Yeah. So that's actually third year partnering with Fred Lynn and Hamish and Jonathan. And we started without doing an after school program for students and through doing the students and then moving on to staff. We really started the program there and now we're partnering with about 50 schools and multiple districts all over the United States. And we're looking to move into Canada and New Zealand, but at the basic level, we partner with the administrator for a one time fee for the program and our program gives 100% access to every teacher, every counselor, administrator, secretary, custodian.
“You know, we've all had, those days we wake up, we have no energy. We ate at over the weekend. We're not active. And we're just, we don't want to live life to the fullest. We don't want to go walk into the classroom. We don't want to get up early and set ourself up for success of the day. But when you're, when you're firing on all cylinders, mentally, physically, emotionally, you know, three big tenants of wellness, then you are at your best and you can be your best for those students that are going to walk in your classroom and it gets back to that's what they deserve. And if you're not taking care of yourself, obviously you're not reaching your full potential and therefore they aren't either.”
— Nick Mann
- Nick: At the district level we include bus drivers, and maintenance personnel and all those individuals to have access to our app and they get their own accounts, so they can do the programs at home, on their own schedule, or what we really like to see and what Fred Lynn does and some other schools that I think are getting great results with the program is they basically create an afterschool accountability group for their staff. So let's say, Hey, on Tuesday and Thursday we're going to meet in classroom 10 and we're going to do yoga together, or we're going to go through this body weight workout together and build comradery and teamwork and we're all going to get better as a community of educators in our school. And that's it. And it's pretty simple. A one time fee and the whole school gets access.
- John: That is awesome. I love it. And, and we'll dig into this maybe even a little bit more, but when I was seeing the first kind of posts that they were putting out about how excited they were, incredibly reasonable in terms of the rate that gives everybody access. So it's also seems to be a real understanding of not only the roadblocks of like how do we remove roadblocks, so educators can actually access this. It needs to be something that can actually do, but also that schools can access, who many times are dealing with funding issues. So you've positioned it really well in that sense to be able to make something that schools could actually do.
- Nick: When we first started this program, I wasn't looking to build this huge business. I was looking to impact educators and that remains our focus. So we want to position our product. That one we're able to provide that impact at all levels. And obviously we know there are budget issues at every level of education, both on the larger district, the school and the individual teacher. So we think we have gotten the product to a point that we can deliver high quality services and then maintain the business while allowing maximum impact. And you know that's where we're at.
- John: That's great man. And I love, and I love hearing right there in that the purpose piece right behind it that matters so much, especially to educators. So how about this to close down today two things? One, we really believe at CharacterStrong that we make time for that which is most important. And you can even take that piece that we were just discussing about budget issues and or time and all of that. And I think about what happens when people are effectively managing stress or, and are more healthy. And how then that equips me as a teacher and educator or whatever role I play in the school to better respond to things that are happening from students. Even things like low level behavior and other things. And when I don't address that effectively, how much time, how many resources are going into that?
- John: So there is a connection here that when you have a staff that is well, a staff that is healthy, they're going to be better in terms of their performance. And so maybe give me one thing, an example of when people put a focus on their wellness, what does it do? In regards to the stress and or whatever else. So speaking from your kind of expert perspective, remind us of some of the benefits there.
- Nick: Yeah, I think that it is just a broad look at the better you feel, the better you're going to be able to reach your students. You know, we've all had, those days we wake up, we have no energy. We ate at over the weekend. We're not active. And we're just, we don't want to live life to the fullest. We don't want to go walk into the classroom. We don't want to get up early and set ourself up for success of the day. But when you're, when you're firing on all cylinders, mentally, physically, emotionally, you know, three big tenants of wellness, then you are at your best and you can be your best for those students that are going to walk in your classroom and it gets back to that's what they deserve. And if you're not taking care of yourself, obviously you're not reaching your full potential and therefore they aren't either.
- John: And so I just think about the calling here for administrators, building leaders who are listening to this podcast, and how when we look at the whole educator, we always talk about like supporting the whole child. Well, if we're going to best support the whole child, we need to look at the whole educator and what are things that we could be doing to support that, including the mental health, the physical health of our staff, and giving them tools that they could use, and helping to create community around that wellness piece, how critical that is. So let's end with this then today. One, thank you for being here. Appreciate it. Love the work that you're doing. How can people connect with you? If they were interested listening to this podcast.
- Nick: So that would put us out on social media. If they just look for TeacherFit. We're very big on Twitter. Obviously a big education community, they're @TeacherFit19 is the actual name, but if they just look for TeacherFit and you can go to our website at teacherfit.com. And you can submit a form if you're interested in finding out more, and I personally will reach out to you.
- John: Awesome. Well Nick, thank you. One thank you for your service, two thank you for your work, loved the purpose and focus on helping educators, helping schools, which ultimately is serving our students. So thanks for being on with us today and I look forward to connecting more.
- Nick: Thank you very much.
- John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google play. To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we're supporting schools, visit characterstrong.com. Thanks for listening and make it a great day.
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The CharacterStrong Team is a partnership of educators, speakers, and students who believe in creating sustainable change in schools and helping young people develop the skills of service, kindness, and empathy.