A teacher for more than 30 years, Lesley Moffat loves her job — band director at Jackson High School in Mill Creek.
Moffat was born to be a teacher: Her parents, grandmother and great-grandmother were all teachers.
She taught band at Alderwood Middle School for two years and then Lynnwood High School for 10 years. She’s been at Jackson for the past 17 years.
Moffat loves her job, except for one thing: It was killing her.
Two years ago, at age 51, Moffat realized she had allowed a rewarding but demanding job to get the best of her.
Determined to regain her health and find work-life balance, Moffat was inspired to write a self-help book for stressed-out teachers. It’s the book she wishes she’d had when she reached her breaking point.
At her worst, Moffat was 60 pounds overweight and was on a dozen medications for a host of ailments. She was sick and in pain all the time. She was hospitalized on multiple occasions, and missed work for weeks at a time.
“I kept seeing all of these doctors, and they would say it’s stress,” she said. “Stress manifests itself in lots of horrible ways.”
In charge of five bands and 300 students, Moffat often forgot to make time for herself. She was exhausted from the go-go-go of teaching during the school day followed by a plethora of after-school activities, such as concerts, football and basketball games, band trips, competitions and festivals.
“Fifty-hour workweeks were never enough, and it sucked it right out of me,” Moffat said. “But I loved it, so it was really hard to say no.
“I couldn’t admit it was so hard. No way. I would have appeared weak.
“It was 12 or 14 hour days all the time, and it just took a toll, mentally and physically. I didn’t take care of me.”
Moffat says her superiors at Jackson aren’t to blame. “This wasn’t anybody’s fault; this was me,” she said.
She witnessed similar stress take a terrible toll on her best friend.
Her book is dedicated to that friend, Laurie Cappello, 61, who was the choir teacher at Cascade High School for 26 years. Cappello died last year of ovarian cancer.
“She was super-active, she just put her heart and soul into her job,” Moffat said of her friend of 20 years. “She kept ignoring her body, ignoring the symptoms. She wasn’t feeling good but she forged through. When her cancer hit stage four, that’s when she found out it was cancer.”
Moffat is convinced that if she hadn’t made a change, she’d be following her friend to an early grave.
Cappello was the one who pushed her to write the book.
Two months before the end of the 2016-2017 school year, Moffat couldn’t take it anymore. She was so stressed out that she couldn’t go to work. She stayed home through the summer.
She resolved to get healthy so she could go back to work, and stay healthy.
At the urging of her husband, George Moffat, she joined a yoga class. She didn’t want to, but did anyway.
With each session, Moffat saw a change in herself. She was more relaxed.
Through yoga, Moffat learned that she needed to practice mindfulness — time to breathe, meditate and be in the moment.
She went back to her doctor and asked to be taken off all her medications. She saw a counselor, a nutritionist, a naturopath, an acupuncturist and a chiropractor. They worked with her doctor to get her off her meds.
“I finally realized another pill is just going to give me more side effects,” she said.
Today Moffat weighs 135 pounds and takes zero medications. She also is working part time right now, which means she teaches 175 students in three bands.
Her husband says he saw “a huge mental transformation” in his wife.
“Before, she just seemed exhausted and worn down,” said George Moffat, 58, a manager in the 777X program at Boeing. “Now I see her with a lot more energy, a lot more drive, and with a sense of mission and purpose again.”
Lesley Moffat’s book, “I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me,” is a step-by-step guide for teachers — with a curriculum and homework built in — meant to help them find relief from chronic stress and illness by achieving work-life balance. She wrote it with help from a self-help book specialist.
Through trial and error, Moffat established what she calls the “mPowered Method,” which has four components: Meals, Movement, Music and Mindfulness. (Because the phrase “diet and exercise” sounds like punishment to some, Moffat likes to call it “meals and movement.”)
All four components are meant to make you feel better. Mindfulness means that before making a decision, you ask yourself, “How will this make me feel?” The meals component simply means eating healthfully. Movement is exercising and stretching. Music, whether you’re listening to it or playing it, improves your mood.
Next year will be Moffat’s last at Jackson. After 32 years as a band teacher, she will retire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
Retirement will give her time to pursue a second career: self-help author and mentor to stressed-out teachers.
Her second book will be called “No More 14-Hour Workdays,” a how-to guide to help teachers bring Moffat’s mPowered Method into their classrooms.
“My new mission on this planet is to work with teachers, so they can teach from a different place than total chaos,” she said.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046, firstname.lastname@example.org, @sarabruestle.
“I Love My Job But It’s Killing Me”
By Lesley Moffat
Difference Press. 133 pages. $7.99 in Kindle format.
About the author
Lesley Moffat, 53, is a high school band teacher and self-help author. She lives in Mill Creek with her husband and three daughters.
Learn more about Moffat’s mPowered Method, request a free download of her book and find a calendar of author events at mpowerededucator.com.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the summer issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.