ENTRY FROM: The Top 100 Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Rachel Duerr

Moving People, Moving Forward

Wellness is a lifestyle for Rachel Duerr and she has spent the last twelve years helping others enjoy an improved quality of life – from our military serving our country, community members taking classes at the local Y, and employees and spouses across the nation through telephonic coaching.
Rachel currently serves as the Coordinator of Health & Wellness in Falcon School District 49 following the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model, a framework for wellness that impacts our 1,500 employees and 19,000 students.

Watching her grandmother suffer from diabetes and other co-morbities motivated Rachel to pursue a career and lifestyle focused on wellness.

Rachel earned a BS in Sport Administration from Stetson University and a MS in Health Education from the University of West Florida, graduating with honors for both.

She is a certified Personal Trainer (American College of Sports Medicine) and Group Fitness Instructor (American Council on Exercise). She completed Well Workplace University training and Leadership Blueprint.

She currently participates in the partnership of district wellness coordinators in the Pikes Peak region.  This group meets quarterly and provides opportunities for professional development.

After coming to the district, Rachel facilitated an 8-week district level challenge Ready, Set, Go! in the Spring of 2014. The 545 participants (employees and spouses) formed teams and tracked activity indicators such as number of steps, exercise minutes and/or weight loss.  This challenge utilized an online portal to track the data and motivate participants using a social media approach, allowing for participation across our district’s multiple locations.

Throughout the district, employees began to incorporate extra activity into work duties such as lunch and recess monitoring and proctoring tests. During breaks and before and after school it has become commonplace to see employees taking laps around buildings. Over spring break, a few teams got together to hike the Incline, a one-mile vertical climb.  Schools also began hosting fitness classes for staff.

At the conclusion of the challenge, Falcon School District 49 walked 199,299,902 steps, exercised 609,474 minutes and lost a combined 535 pounds.  The district is currently participating in a similar challenge during the fall of 2014.

Welcoa’s 7 Benchmarks are used in Falcon School District 49 to drive our wellness program

  • Capturing CEO Support – Our CEO supports wellness and it aligns with our strategic plan for making Falcon School District 49 the Best District to learn, work and lead.  He supported the district funding a full time Coordinator of Health & Wellness after grant funds ended.
  • Creating Cohesive Wellness Teams – Rachel facilitates the district-wide Wellness Advisory Council which oversees our wellness policy and each of our 17 schools have wellness teams in place with co-leaders and members representing the ten components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model. 
  • Collecting data to drive health efforts – Our 17 schools have taken the School Health Index  and the Healthy Champions Scorecard which assesses the components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model.  Last year, employee wellness was our second lowest scoring component leading to a district-wide focus on employee wellness.  Because our participation rates are low for our Health Risk Assessment and annual physicals, Rachel will be spearheading a Know Your Numbers campaign in the New Year.
  • Carefully crafting an operating plan – After one year of consistent wellness offerings, Rachel collected feedback from our principals and district-wide Wellness Advisory Council which will be used to craft an operating plan for 2015.
  • Choosing appropriate interventions – Physical activity has been our primary intervention since our entire population can benefit from a physically active lifestyle.  As we receive more data in the New Year from our Know Your Numbers campaign, we will review to see if more tailored prevention campaigns are needed.
  • Creating a Supportive Environment –Rachel provides support and professional development to school wellness team leaders, encourages individual staff in their fitness activities, and organizes and participates in open and welcoming fitness activities for district staff.
  • Carefully Evaluating Outcomes – District level and school level initiatives have tracking components to better drive the wellness program moving forward.

Rachel is a strong role model.  With her implementation of fitness initiatives, willingness to share her own fitness goals, leadership in incorporating activity into breaks and meetings, and her encouragement of others, she has changed the culture, making us all more aware of the many benefits of fitness and health.

In addition to Well Workplace University, where she learned the steps to have a comprehensive, results-oriented program, Rachel reviews and shares research and best practices in the field. She would recommend the books Switch by Chip and Dan Health and Drive by Daniel Pink to anyone in the wellness field. 

Rachel suggests that anyone new to the field seek out an internship to gain experience.  For those in the field, find opportunities to partner with others in your community.  Ask for opportunities to talk with senior leadership and align you wellness message with their strategic vision and plan.  Finally, seek out positive press about your program, participants and initiatives. 

Every school in Falcon School District 49 is required to submit a School Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) which includes staff wellness. SHIPs are submitted to the Colorado Department of Education and show our district’s commitment to wellness. Rachel provides technical assistance to our 17 schools in developing their SHIPs.  Schools collect data for the SHIP to track health status improvements.  

Rachel is providing support as many schools are adopting the Spring Break Checklist.  Staff members take a pre survey to identify stress levels. The week before Spring Break, healthy snacks are provided to staff in the break room. Over break, staff members complete a checklist of stress relieving activities.   When staff return from Spring Break, they take a post survey on stress levels. This program has shown a decrease in stress levels.   This program serves to both help individual staff manage stress and promote a more positive school culture.

Although the Affordable Care Act supports wellness, a big threat is the increased costs for businesses to provide medical benefits.  These increased costs could result in some companies limiting or stopping medical insurance as a benefit. 

An opportunity for wellness to move forward stems from the positive psychology movement.  A wellness program and work environment that allows employees autonomy, mastery and purpose will see employees thrive and produce cost savings to companies.  Wellness programs should seek to expand their purpose and align with multiple divisions within an organization and the community.

Falcon School District 49 has already begun forming partnerships with community organizations. Rachel plans to continue to strengthen and develop these partnerships over the next five years.  By building this network of wellness, the benefits and positive impact of a health and wellness focus can be expanded to the entire local community and not just district staff and students.


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As a former colleague of Rachel's, I can attest to her commitment to improve the health and wellness of the people she serves. Rachel is a leader who knows how to combine evidence-based practices and creativity in taking on new initiatives. Somehow she sees the big picture while still knowing how to tailor messages to individuals. She truly is a champion for wellness!

Emily M. on 11/24/2014

I read you background and story, your beliefs and convictions spoke to me. That's why you got my vote.

jeff w. on 11/04/2014

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