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Happy Teacher Project




America's teachers are among the most overworked and underappreciated groups in our nation. Specifically, early childhood education (ECE) teachers face disparities that influence their health and well-being. Teachers are integral to educational systems, and their wellness impacts development of the children they teach. Moreover, physical and occupational therapists have leadership opportunities to, directly and indirectly, influence the wellness of students through their teachers. Our research team, the Happy Teacher Project, developed and tested a conceptual model using job demands and resources as frameworks to examine teacher wellness. The model demonstrated relationships between physical activities and sedentary behaviors, suggesting these modifiable risk factors can be addressed to improve the overall well-being of ECE teachers and by extension, their students. The purpose of the study, part of a four-year project, takes a holistic and multi-faceted approach (our research team consists of 11 researchers representing nine disciplines at OU and the OU Health Sciences Center) to promote ECE teacher well-being and improve working conditions.

Happy Teacher Project main webpage

Current Phase of Research

  • Pilot Intervention – 2022 
  • Phase 1 Intervention – Spring 2023
  • Phase 2 Intervention – Fall 2023

Happy Teacher




  • Randall, Ken, Kwon, K., Ford, T., & Malek-Lasater, A. (2022). Physical well-being in early childhood teachers: Correlates of work-related musculoskeletal issues and fitness among these “educational athletes”. Early Education and Development, 32(2), 551-571. 
  • Kwon, K., Ford, T., Salvatore, A., Randall, Ken,… & Han, M. (2022). Neglected elements of a high-quality early childhood workforce: Whole teacher well-being and working conditions. Early Childhood Education Journal, 50, 157-168. 
  • Kwon, K., Ford, T., Jeon, L., Malek-Lasater, A., Ellis, N., Randall, Ken, Kile, M., & Salvatore, A. (2021). Testing a holistic conceptual framework for early childhood teacher well-being.  Journal of School Psychology, 86, 178-197. 
  • Randall, Ken, Ford, T., Kwon, K., Sisson, S., Bice, M., Dinkel, D., & Tsotsoros, J. (2021). Physical activity, physical well-being, and psychological well-being: Associations with life satisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic among early childhood educators.  Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 18(18), 9430. 

Presentations presented by the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences:

  • Spears, M., Cheema, C., Randall, K., Tsotsoros, J., Malek, A., Ford, T., & Kwon, K. Promoting health and well-being in early childhood educators: The Happy Teacher Project. Submitted APTA Combined Sections Meeting, 2024.
  • Tsotsoros, J., Cheema, C., Randall, K., Kwon, K. The Happy Teacher Project: A conceptual model of well-being for early childhood teachers. AOTA INSPIRE, 2023, Poster Presentation.
  • Spears, M., Cheema, C., Randall, K., Kile, M., Castle, S., Kwon, K., Ford, T., & Tsotsoros, J. Happy Teacher Project: A pilot study of early childhood teachers’ physical and psychological well-being. Platform Presentation at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Allied Health Research Day, April 14, 2023


This four-year project is funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will take a holistic view of physical, psychological and professional well-being, as well as the impact of workplace conditions, for Head Start teachers in Oklahoma. Head Start programs promote school readiness through early childhood education, health, nutrition and well-being services to low-income children and families.


  • 2023 University of Oklahoma Vice President for Research and Partnerships Award for Excellence in Transdisciplinary, Convergent Research and Research and Creativity Award
  • Megan Spears (GRA, SPT-3) - Dean P. Kevin Rudeen Research Enhancement Award at the College of Allied Health Research Day

New and Events

Dr. Jessica Tsotsoros

Carolyn Cheema, PT, DSc, OCS, FAAOMPT
 PI for the OUHSC, Co-PI for the
Happy Teacher Project

 Email: Dr. Carolyn Cheema

Dr. Ken Randall

Ken Randall, PT, PhD, MHR
Co-Investigator of Wellness Interventions

Email: Dr. Ken Randall

Megan Spears

Megan Spears, SPT-3
Graduate Research Assistant

Email: Megan Spears