Ysleta ISD launches new social-emotional health curriculum to support transition to in-person classes

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Officials with Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) announced that they have started a new Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum to provide support for students as they transition back to in-person learning.

Ysleta ISD launched the “Kindness in the Classroom” SEL curriculum in response to considerable input over the past year from parents, staff, counselors, faculty, and administrators. This fall, the curriculum will be integrated into every campus, from pre-K to high school.

The goal of “Kindness in the Classroom” is to help students acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to manage emotions, achieve personal goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions, among others. This is particularly important in the wake of the pandemic that prompted school shutdowns and quarantines that have contributed to an increase in mental health concerns among children, said YISD officials.

CASEL Educating Hearts. Inspiring Minds.

“Ysleta ISD strongly believes in the importance of educating the whole child, and that’s why SEL is a priority for us,” said Catherine Kennedy, associate superintendent of middle schools. “Research has shown the benefits of SEL include improvement in social emotional skills, attitudes, relationships, and academic performance. When it comes to SEL, everyone at Ysleta ISD plays an important role.”

The SEL curriculum, which incorporates monthly themes of respect, caring, inclusiveness, integrity, responsibility, and courage, is endorsed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a national nonprofit group formed in 1994 that aims to establish high-quality, evidence-based SEL as an essential part of education.

At Ysleta ISD, the curriculum features 30-minute weekly lessons for pre-K through eighth grade students. It provides biweekly lessons for students grades 9-12 – delivered through a technology platform called Nearpod – that addresses the five core competencies of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Officials say the lessons are aligned with the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Character Traits. In addition to social and emotional learning, these lessons support the district’s dual-language and bilingual classrooms in pre-K through third grade.

With an SEL campus team at every YISD school that actively implements the new curriculum, professional development is an essential factor in the district’s success, officials said.

 “All teachers have attended SEL professional development, and it has expanded across groups to include administrators, counselors, tutors, instructional specialists, librarians and P.E. coaches,” said Celina Muñoz, YISD’s guidance and counseling director. “Training is also provided for parents as we work to collaborate with families and community partners beyond the explicit lessons.”

The curriculum encourages “Kindness Projects”, involving campuses to come together as learning communities to plan projects that include community service.

SEL surveys are also being administered throughout the school year to monitor the impact of the SEL curriculum and practices and assist campus faculty to identify areas of strength or need, officials said.

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