Unicorn Teachers: Addressing Secondary Traumatic Stress and Burnout in Educational Environments

I’ve heard it said that “a good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

But what happens when the candle has burned out?

Many people think that teaching is just about seating charts, curriculum, and lesson plans. However the emotional aspect of teaching is something that is rarely discussed and hardly ever addressed. With society’s pressures and increasingly complicated situations that teens are now facing, many teachers, like myself, find themselves unable to leave behind the fear and anxiety inherited from their students when they go home.

This is what I set out to tackle with my latest production, Sculpting Clay or How I Became Mother of Unicorns.  It is a coming of age tale of one woman’s attempts to navigate the fantastical journey of her dreams while repeatedly being drawn into the complicated, often dark realities that her students face: self-actualization, oppressive systems in schools and underserved communities, incarceration, and even death. Weaving in and out of fantasy, the play uses projections and live action narrative to bring to life the epic voyage we each must take in order to actualize our dreams and protect our mental health while continuing to make a difference in the lives of the people we meet.

The Story Behind Sculpting Clay or How I Became Mother of Unicorns

Once upon a time, I was a teacher. I was determined to be the kind of teacher that I needed when I was a teenager—an adult that created a safe place, listened and didn’t judge. But not long into my journey along that road, I realized that I was unable to “leave the job at the job”. I began to lose sleep and constantly worry about many of my students. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake some of the things that the young people told me in confidence. It was hard to focus and I started showing signs of depression. I wasn’t the same teacher I used to be when I set out on this road.

It wasn’t until much later that I began to learn about secondary traumatic stress in educators. It was an eye-opening experience. I began to see the effects of it– not only in myself but also my fellow teachers. I witnessed amazing teachers leaving the profession in droves, not because of lack of funding (as so many people think!) but from the pressures and stresses that aren’t being addressed. No one was speaking about it or doing anything to combat it. Thus, Sculpting Clay or How I Became Mother of Unicorns was born.

"Teaching is like a fantasy adventure---you come across all sorts of characters that either help or hinder you along your journey."

Tours are now available to schools and community partners!

 The entire session consists of a 50-minute performance of the play, “Sculpting Clay or How I Became Mother of Unicorns” and a 60-minute professional development learning session

The professional development has been crafted with the following objectives:

  • *To strengthen interpersonal relationships amongst staff
  • *To respond and reflect on the importance of self care
  • *To practice self-regulation skills that can be used during difficult times
  • *To create an organizational plan for mitigating staff stress and teacher burnout

Contact me to Learn More

Sculpted Clay Productions


Tell me about yourself and the audience that you would like to impact!

Phone  (240) 232-8381