Well at Work, Well-being

Staff Wellbeing is Essential for Student Success

We’ve all been in school environments where staff and students are thriving, learning, collaborating, and creating exceptional learning experiences. We’ve also been in school environments where themes of stress, interpersonal conflict, and burnout are a part of the lunchtime conversation. Educators can feel the strong connection between staff wellbeing and student learning.

It’s not just a feeling. A recent meta-analysis shows that teacher wellbeing is positively correlated with teacher–student relationships, quality of instruction, student experiences, and student outcomes.1 It’s not just teaching staff that influence student success – all school staff have a role to play in developing relationships with students and create a supportive school environment, both of which support positive student outcomes.2

Investing in staff wellbeing…

Enhances teaching quality

Teachers are widely regarded as the most important in-school influencers of student success, satisfaction, and achievement.3 Teacher wellbeing is closely related to teaching quality:4 One study found that teacher wellbeing accounted for 8% of the variation in academic achievement.5 As we know from experience, when we feel our best, we can do our best work.6

Strengthens relationships with students

Students benefit from having a caring adult at school.7 Strong teacher-student relationships have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement;8 increased teacher wellbeing enhances teacher-student relationships.9 Any adult in the school community can become that caring adult: support staff, maintenance staff, bus drivers, and principals.

Fosters supportive school environments

School staff play a central role in shaping the school environment.10, 11 When a safe and supportive learning environment exists, students can flourish;12 without one, student wellbeing and learning suffer. However, staff must be well to create the safe, welcoming, and inclusive school environments emphasized in school district strategic plans.

Directly influences student wellbeing

When teachers are well, they contribute to their students’ social, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.13 Multiple studies have shown direct links between teacher wellbeing and student wellbeing – including a direct connection between teacher’s stress levels and student’s cortisol levels.14 The research connecting student learning with student wellbeing is clear: student wellbeing enhances learning.15

A virtuous or a vicious cycle

School staff who are healthy and well create supportive school environments and caring relationships with students. They provide quality instruction, fostering student wellbeing and success. Seeing students flourish further enhances our sense of wellbeing – after all, this is why most of us got into the field in the first place. When students flourish, they are also more likely to follow behavioural norms and treat fellow students with care and respect – further enhancing the school environment. It’s a virtuous cycle.

When students or staff struggle, the cycle can turn vicious. As a society, we are facing a variety of challenges: climate change, political polarization, inflation, and housing/food insecurity. The challenges students experience at home may manifest as a mental health condition or disruptive classroom behaviour. These in turn influence the classroom environment, adding to the emotional burden and workload of school staff. Additionally, school staff experience all the same challenges as students and families. As these stressors pile on, wellbeing decreases, and education staff are less able to create safe and supportive school environments.


Educators across Canada and worldwide intrinsically recognize the complex interplay between student and staff wellbeing. Research shows that this interplay can create a virtuous cycle, where students and staff thrive. Or it can create a vicious cycle that creates stress, anxiety, and ill-being.

If we truly want our students to be healthy and ready to learn it is essential to invest in the wellbeing and culture of our staff. We all want to walk into schools where collaboration, support, and learning are “in the air”.  Let’s help more schools thrive by investing in our staff.


Photo: Getty Images Signature
First published in Education Canada, September 2023


Does this article spark an idea, suggestion, or story of success? We’d love to hear from you! You can reach Kathleen at klane@edcan.ca.



1 Dreer, B. (2023) On the outcomes of teacher wellbeing: a systematic review of research. Front. Psychol. 14:1205179. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1205179

2 McCallum, F. (2021). Teacher and Staff Wellbeing: Understanding the Experiences of School Staff. In M.L. Kern & M.L. Wehmeyer (Eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education. (pp. 715-740). Palgrave MacMillan. Retrieved 11 December 2023 from: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-64537-3

3 Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses to achievement. London: Routledge.

4 Mingren, Z., & Shiquan, F. (2018). Rural teacher identity and influencing factors in western China. Chinese Education & Society,51(2), 91–102.

5 Briner, R., & Dewberry, C. (2007). Staff wellbeing is key to school success: A research study into the links between staff wellbeing and school performance. London: Worklife Support.

6 National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. (2018). Healthy School, Healthy Staff, Healthy Students: A Guide to Improving School Employee Wellness. Retrieved 11 December 2023 from: https://chronicdisease.org/resource/resmgr/school_health/school_employee_wellness/nacdd_schoolemployeewellness.pdf

7 American Institutes for Research (n.d.) Understanding the Importance of Creating Positive School Climates to Support Students Facing Adversity and Trauma. School Climate Improvement Resource Package. Retrieved 11 December 2023 from: https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NCSSLE-Trauma-Adversity-Brief-508.pdf

8 Quin, D. (2017). Longitudinal and Contextual Associations Between Teacher–Student Relationships and Student Engagement: A Systematic Review. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 345–387.

9 Kelty Mental Health (n.d.). Fostering and Supporting Teacher and Staff Well-being. Retrieved 11 December 2023 from: https://keltymentalhealth.ca/school-professionals/fostering-and-supporting-teacher-and-staff-well-being#:~:text=Teachers%20play%20a%20key%20role,more%20supportive%20teacher%2Dstudent%20relationships.

10 Astor, R.A. and Moore, H. (2021). Positive school climate for school staff? The roles of administrators, staff beliefs, and school organization in high and low resource school districts. Journal of Community Psychology. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354451658_Positive_school_climate_for_school_staff_The_roles_of_administrators_staff_beliefs_and_school_organization_in_high_and_low_resource_school_districts

11 Dinsdale,R. (2017). The Role of Leaders in Developing a Positive Culture. BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education, Volume 9, Issue 1.https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-64537-3_28

12 Lindorff A (2020) The impact of promoting student wellbeing on student academic and non-academic outcomes: An analysis of the evidence. Retrieved 11 December 2023 from: https://oxfordimpact.oup.com/home/wellbeing-impact-study

13 Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses to achievement. London: Routledge.

14 Oberle, E., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2016). Stress contagion in the classroom? The link between classroom teacher burnout and morning cortisol in elementary school students. Social Science & Medicine, 159, 30-37

15 Dix, K, Ahmed, S.K., Carslake, T, Sniedze-Gregory, S, O’Grady, E, & Trevitt, J (2020). Student health and wellbeing: A systematic review of intervention research examining effective student wellbeing in schools and their academic outcomes. Main report and executive summary. Evidence for Learning Retrieved 11 December 2023 from: https://evidenceforlearning.org.au/education-evidence/evidence-reviews/student-health-and-wellbeing

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