SEL in Action Newsletter

Our Voices, Our Stories

This newsletter is written for educators, by educators to share real world stories, questions, ideas and opinions about how to address the social and emotional needs of students and the adults who teach them.

This month, the newsletter features voices of grantees on a broad range of SEL topics, from a wellness self-assessment tool to using new platforms to increase supports for students.

Share your story here! Complete this brief survey if you would like to be featured in a future newsletter. All publications are awarded a $50 gift card.

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Resource Center

The SEL in Action community has been collaborating to compile this ever-evolving list of resources. It includes hand-curated resources from former SEL in Action grantees, videos from prior SEL in Action supports and convenings and an archive of the SEL in Action Newsletters. Check it out!

Upcoming Events and Updates

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The 2022 SEL in Action Awards application window is now open! Education First, in partnership with the NoVo Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, seeks applications for educator-led and district-level initiatives that foster culturally-affirming social, emotional and academic learning in students in grades PK-12. We will award up to $8,000 grants to educators for work in classrooms or schools and up to $30,000 for district-level grants to implement an SEL-focused initiative in the 2022–23 school year.

The RFP, FAQs, application link and details about two informational webinars can be found HERE. The deadline for applications is Monday, March 14 at 11:59pm PT.

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TEL is a yearlong fellowship that brings together a racially and culturally diverse group of educational leaders to facilitate personal, professional, and system-wide transformation, with a focus on individual and collective growth. Previously, the TEL Fellowship focused primarily on the integration of Leadership, Equity, SEL & Mindfulness. TEL will continue to integrate these fields while going much deeper into creating a Healing-Centered, Liberatory Leaderful Community where sacred activism, interbeing and contemplative wisdom are foundational and learning is centered on the emergent wisdom of the TEL Beloved Community that has gathered. TEL's last cohort was 60% Leaders of Color and TEL is committed to cultivating a cohort that is at least 50% Leaders of Color.

The 2022-2023 TEL Fellowship starts this July. Applications are now open.

Educator Voices

Wellness Self Assessments by Christina Marsh
Christina Marsh - Personal Wellness
Christina Marsh is an innovative and creative leader that connects communities through artistic expression, collaboration, and restorative practices. Her work focuses on strategic planning, program implementation and curriculum building while advocating and coaching. She is a nationally recognized artist that has been in arts education and administration for over a decade. Christina has worked in several states with diverse communities utilizing art as a method creating visual narratives. She is also a trainer for Mental Health First Aid for Youth, Trauma Informed Practices, Calm Classroom and several other topics related to metal wellness. Christina holds a BFA from Memphis College of Art in Photography and Art History, a MFA from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in Studio Arts and a MS from Maryland University of Integrative Health in Health and Wellness Coaching.

Finding Time for Joy: Building Relationships by Lisa Poskanzer

It was my own social and emotional needs that guided me to finding the best way to make connections with my students. Several years ago, the business and industry of teaching was getting me down. Meetings, emails, conferences, PDs, changes in curriculum, changes in standards, changes in leadership these all added to the stress of a job already stressful enough just being a trusted adult for 18 individual 5 year olds. If you’re a classroom teacher, you get it.

For their sake and mine I began to play improv games with my kindergarteners. We stole moments from the all-important Literacy Block and Math Block to play a quick 2 or 3 minute game. Then back to serious business. Then back to play. Then back to work. We work hard and we play hard.

It was important that the games had absolutely nothing to do with our important, serious schoolwork and that we “stole” those moments for play. The children would ask, “Can we play a game?” like it was some sort of crime. I’d say, “Yes, but then we have to get back to work,” conspiratorially so they knew the game didn’t matter. Because the game didn’t matter. Playing mattered. For all of us, it was a few stolen moments to just be and let loose and not care.

Playing together built classroom relationships. Playing together created shared memories of fun and joy. Playing together built a community of learning and growth. The games we played together had no winners or losers. There was no built-in Game Over. There was playing and fun and joy. And in those moments of joy, my students and I found each other and our why.

Lisa Poskanzer is the Media Specialist at North Grade K-8 School in Lake Worth Beach, Florida. Igniting the joy in a good book is her passion. Lisa developed Improv to Improve in her classroom as a brain break between learning modules.

Lisa is the ridiculously proud mother of Emma and Graham. The greatest joy has been the journey being their mother and watching them become amazing adults. Lisa was educated at The George Washington University and Teacher’s College at Columbia University.

Seasonal Intention: Shifting from Darkness to Light by Christine Lopez

The Winter Solstice occurred (12/21) approximately one month ago and marked the shift from darkness into light.

As one of my favorite days of the year, I celebrated the Winter Solstice with a moonlit, candlelight hike in the woods. What a better way to honor the darkness than with a little light guiding the way?

With so much occurring in our daily lives, including the navigation of a tumultuous, ever-changing landscape, we may find ourselves searching for a little light both physically and metaphorically.

As we welcome the new season and new year, we welcome more light into our lives. We begin to see tangible evidence of the amount of daylight increase. With more light entering our skies and hearts in this season, I invite you to consider integrating gratitude into your daily reflection(s).


Did you know that practicing gratitude increases happiness? It also cultivates resilience and empathy, and teaches us to reframe our daily lives.

Find a moment of time this week to sit in stillness and reflect on the lessons you learned during the autumn season. Decide which of those lessons will serve you moving forward into our new season, and those that you want to leave behind. Express gratitude for these lessons.

While bringing these lessons to mind, I invite you to consider a few contemplative questions for this season's and year's reflection and intention:

What would I like to do that I might not already be doing in life?

What ways can I share my talents and knowledge with the world?

Who are the people that can offer support in this endeavor?

What other resources might I need to fulfill these efforts?

Write your responses to these questions on paper or in your journal and refer to them periodically throughout this season. They will shape and become your intention and help maintain your focus.

Wishing you all the best as you move toward your life's goal(s) and vocation.

My intention for this article is that we continue to honor the teachings of the late Thich Nhat Hanh on our mindfulness paths for Social Emotional Learning for our future generations.

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A moonlit, candlelight hike to celebrate the Winter Solstice

Ms. López is an amazing community leader and activist. As a first generation college graduate, she believes in the importance of enhancing the lives of others by giving back to her own community. As a leading expert in large-scale collaborations, Ms. López has brought together diverse groups of stakeholders to address difficult issues such as mental health, workforce and skills development, community health, healthcare, college and career readiness, and educational reform. She is well-known for her instrumental role in the development of the nationally-recognized, INfluencing Student Potential and Increasing Representation in Education (INSPIRE) Summer Research Program at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS), which is a pathway for students from underrepresented populations to attain advanced degrees in the health professions.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, Ms. López has offered no-cost CommUNITY Karma Yoga classes three days a week. At the conclusion of last year, she hosted over 276 classes over 94 weeks, and practiced in community for over 229 hours.

Strengthening Communications as we Grow our Impact by Candice Frontiera

The vision of our Compassionate Ko‘olaupoko collaboration is to cultivate a flourishing, thriving community. A community where our youth and their families are resilient and compassionate so that they can take care of themselves and others. The founders came from the Windward District Office in the Hawai‘i Department of Education, Windward Community College, and Harold K. Castle Foundation with support from the Novo Foundation and Education First grant.

Informed by input from a broader advisory council, we have been investing in online speaker series, book talks, legislative advocacy efforts, and ongoing trainings to enhance social-emotional learning in our schools. One active principal commented, “I really appreciate Compassionate Ko‘olaupoko for helping us carve out time and giving us a collaborative space to do something meaningful not only for our students, but beyond our students and for generations of students to come.” As the scope of our work grew, it became clear that we needed to strengthen our communication efforts, establish a website, and enhance our social media presence.

We started by having conversations with a consultant whose goal was to help non-profits use the power of cause-driven marketing and communications strategies to advance their mission and affect positive change in the world. She helped our team think about the following key elements of an actionable Communications Strategy:

Defining our target audience - For us, our website and social media posts are designed for those who care for youth in our geographic area

Establishing content bins - We came up with a few categories for different types of posts:

  • feel good: emotional well-being tidbits
  • advertising our upcoming events: online speakers, book talks, service days, etc.
  • compassion videos: voices from our advisory council and community members
  • resources: information that builds knowledge or skills

Understanding batch content creation - Instead of attempting to come up with one post at a time, our eyes were opened to the efficiency of creating a bunch of content from a single event and then slowly releasing it or repurposing it

The strategic elements that our team found most challenging were defining our goals for using social media, discussing how we might measure success, and drafting a calendar for posting. Several months into this work, those areas still seem a bit fuzzy to our team. However, we are determined to make progress and not let perfectionism get in the way. For example, we dreamed up our ideal website, and then took it down a notch so we could release a simpler version while we worked to develop something more robust.

One particularly successful effort was our recent community event called Compassion in Action, which was live streamed online as well as on our local TV network so that we could reach a broad audience. Our goal was to celebrate the many everyday heroes in our community who are working tirelessly to strengthen a culture of caring. With each new platform that we have stretched ourselves to use, we’ve been able to invite others to join us in supporting our youth. As educators we are used to working with other educators within our DOE system, but to truly support the whole child calls for broader collaboration. We envision a thriving community that has healed from the inside out. We envision a future where every student knows they are loved and embraced by our entire community for exactly who they are.

Visit or follow us on Instragram @compassionatekoolaupoko to join us on our journey.

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Compassionate Ko‘olaupoko founders (from left) Derek Minakami, Josh Levinson, Georgianna DeCosta, Candice Frontiera, Nathan French and Ardis Eschenberg.

Compassionate Ko‘olaupoko is a current NoVo Foundation Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Educator Practice Community (EPC) grantee. On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, Compassionate Koʻolaupoko celebrated the everyday heroes fostering a Culture of Caring in our Ko‘olaupoko community. At this virtual event, they highlighted what Compassion in Action looks like through moʻolelo (stories) and mele (song), featuring those who support youth through trauma-informed practices. From schools creating safe and inclusive environments to community groups promoting healing through indigenous practices to children taking action to cultivate friendships, be inspired by the many people helping us grow an island of support for youth and their families.

Dr. Candice Frontiera is a School Renewal Specialist for the Kailua-Kalaheo Complex Area within the Hawai’i Department of Education. After teaching middle school math, she went on to complete her doctoral studies in Learning Design and Technology at the University of Hawai’i. National recognition includes AERA Division H Outstanding Dissertation, Teach for America Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Shirley Hord Teacher Learning Team Award through Learning Forward. As a mom of children in the local public school system she is passionate about supporting systemic improvement and scaling promising practices in a culturally sustaining way.

The SEL in Action Team

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