When we gather together great things happen
MEET OUR TEAM
Ilana Nankin Ph.D.
Founder & CEO | Leader of Love
Breathe For Change is my vision manifested into a global movement transforming lives through humanizing education.
Five words that describe me are loving, inspiring, unstoppable, leader, and teacher.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Facilitating life-changing learning experiences that create space for people to fully step into their whole and brilliant Selves, and through the process, individually and collectively transform themselves, their relationships, and their communities.
How did you end up on this team? I started this team! As a former pre-kindergarten teacher in San Francisco, I was—like millions of teachers—stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked, which brought me to my first yoga class. Yoga transformed my well-being, and I started integrating some of the practices into my classroom with my pre-K superstars, and saw unbelievable benefits in them both social-emotionally and academically. In 2012, I moved to Wisconsin to become a teacher of educators and pursue my Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at UW-Madison's School of Education. For my dissertation research, I created a social-justice oriented community of practice to support some of the pre-service teachers I had taught in translating their social justice ideals into action in diverse classrooms around the world during their first year as teachers. Through my research, I found that these teachers were stressed and overwhelmed, just as I had been, but had few to no tools to take care of themselves. This diminishing cycle of well-being revealed the critical connection between teacher well-being and effective teaching, and inspired us to implement wellness practices into our lives and teaching.
At the same time that the issue of teacher stress and burnout was surfacing through my studies, my current students—pre-service teachers who were doing their practicum teaching in schools in Madison—found out I was a yoga teacher and asked if they could rent out space for me to teach them yoga once a week in the student union. Of course, I loved this and said, "Yes!" After we started practicing together, students would constantly approach me and share the ripple effect: "The kids who typically have anxiety attacks before tests are now utilizing breathing techniques to calm themselves down and their test scores are increasing!" Or, "My students who often fight with each other or have tantrums, are now doing mindful movement to make better decisions." Seeing the power of these practices unfolding before my eyes, and knowing how under-prioritized teacher self-care is, inspired me in January 2015 to start the world's only 200-hour wellness and yoga teacher training specifically for educators. The moment I created this vision, I started telling everyone I interacted with, and within months it transformed into a movement—Breathe For Change.
What is your wellness and professional background? I am a former pre-K teacher, teacher educator, entrepreneur, transformational facilitator, and E-RYT-200 yoga trainer. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology and Education, was a 2009 Teach For America corps member in San Francisco, and received my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Wisconsin in 2016. I integrate my wellness experience with my pedagogical expertise to develop the curriculum and vision for Breathe For Change.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Yoga for sure! Coming to my mat every day brings me home. I truly believe that as educators, we must embody the practices we teach.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? To be honest, I spend most of my "free time" living and breathing Breathe For Change. Breathe For Change has become my family, my community, and my passion, and it continues to expand to include so many of my loved ones. I feel so blessed that work feels like play, and that thousands of people I love are on this path alongside me every day!
We are grateful for all our partners including