The vital work of Inner Strength could not be accomplished without the dedication of our instructors, so we’re going to be featuring some of our talented team in the Instructor Spotlight. Get to know the faces and people who give so much to move this work forward. For March, we’d like to introduce you to Lina Blanchet.
How did you first hear about Inner Strength Foundation?
“I first heard about ISF through a friend who I was collaborating with to teach mindfulness in schools in 2017 in New Jersey. A year later I was looking for established non-profits in PA that were teaching mindfulness to collaborate with and I fell upon the ISF website and I recalled what my friend had shared with me. Amy and I connected through a phone call. I completed Part I and II of the teacher training, a semester practicum at South Philadelphia and Furness High Schools and then I began teaching my own classrooms at Central and Lankenau High Schools.
What made you want to become an Inner Strength instructor?
“I am dedicated to sharing mindfulness tools in educational contexts. I’ve been a teacher for 19 years and a mindfulness practitioner for 14 years. Bringing mindfulness practices into my classroom when I was an English teacher at the middle and high school levels transformed my personal experience as an educator and also unleashed balance and strength in my students. In 2015 I made the decision to shift the focus of my career and pursued a Master’s in Mindfulness for Educators. I haven’t looked back!
Joining the team at the Inner Strength Foundation has helped me collaborate with an inspiring group of mindfulness teachers who are passionate about the ISF program and are actively bringing the practices to life in Philadelphia High Schools. It has been meaningful to share transformative mindfulness tools with students in ways that help them cultivate calm, balanced focus and kindness towards themselves and others. I strongly believe in ISF’s vision to support adolescents in realizing their highest potential and its mission to empower youth with mindful tools and social and emotional skills that support success and happiness in life. Finally, I find the ISF’s values deeply mirror my own with its focus on education, compassion, and awareness.”
What is the most rewarding component of teaching the ISF program?
“Being with the students and practicing mindfulness as a community of learners is the most rewarding part of the program for me. There is something quite magical about being in a class of 20 – 30 students, each one following their own breath and connecting to their internal experience and yet we are engaging in this practice together as a community. Supporting each other through mindful presence we come to appreciate our shared common humanity. This comes to light when we discuss practices and perspectives explored through the curriculum. There are moments of pure joy and laughter and moments of wonder and discovery. It is a privilege to witness this in their brilliant faces and hear the important connections made in the words shared.”
What changes have you seen in students who have taken the training?
“Over the course of the program I often notice students slowly come out of their shell. They exhibit more confidence in their understanding of their own inner experience and the shifts that are happening in body, heart, and mind during adolescence. They may begin the course unsure and hesitant as they first explore mindfulness. As we move through the weeks it is moving to see how a once unfamiliar practice becomes quite natural for them. When invited to begin a practice, students will automatically take on the posture they have been taught and you can see and sense the peace and calm that comes over the room. When asked to share, students are more comfortable in discussing as they develop a vocabulary to describe their inner experience. Engaging in conversations about thoughts, emotions, and relationships they come to experience for themselves what it means to contemplate the social and emotional elements of their lives.”
What advice would you give to others who are interested in this path?
“I find the most important thing is to begin with your own practice. When teachers embody what they teach, learning happens in a very organic way. Cultivating a consistent mindfulness practice will help teachers understand the tools taught in the program in a deeper way through their own personal experience. Another perspective that supports my work is to see myself as a learner for life. When I can approach each moment in the classroom with my students with curiosity, an open heart, and a beginner’s mind, I can learn from my students how best to support them on their journey and from this space we can grow together as a mindful community.”