Embracing Social-Emotional Learning as the SEL Dallas Initiative Expands

Happy New School Year: 2021–2022

I can barely remember how I actually rang in the first day of this 2021 year, and yet, I can’t believe how fast the year has flown by amidst everything that we have experienced. In education, we are so lucky to have two new year celebrations! The beginning of a school year is a great time to reset and implement all the things that we wanted to start doing in January. 

Since we all need safety, security, good health and a sense of belonging, I invite you to join this new year challenge with me. Let’s commit to practicing self-care in a way that prioritizes healthy habits; ensuring safety and security by fostering a growth mindset; and welcoming all people as equals, without judgment. Our kids at home and at work are watching us more than we realize. They will do what they see us do, more than what we advise them to do. By committing to this challenge, we can be a much happier society and provide a richer experience for ourselves and our kids. 

We have SEL Coordinators who can provide training and coaching support to our campuses, and our partners at Big Thought who can provide training support to our afterschool providers. When we join hands in this effort that we identify as SEL implementation, we succeed at home, in school and at work. 

This year, let’s succeed together. 

—Juany Valdespino-Gaytán, Dallas ISD Executive Director of Engagement Services


As the 2021-22 school year gets underway, we want to wish educators, youth and families a fun and safe year. COVID-19 continues to create uncertainties and challenges, and we know that this year will once again ask a lot of our communities. Parents and caregivers are faced with difficult decisions regarding the well-being of their children, and we want to provide as much support as possible.

Partnerships for SEL Implementation | PSELI

This year, SEL Dallas enters the fifth year of a social and emotional learning (SEL) implementation grant from the Wallace Foundation. Together with key partners, Dallas ISD, Big Thought, Dallas Afterschool and City Of Dallas Parks & Recreation, SEL practices are being implemented both in-school and out-of-school, with the long-term goal of sharing our resources and learning citywide. 

“It has been heartening to see the SEL Dallas partners respond over the course of these past 18 months to the various challenges that have been presented,” said Greg MacPherson, Chief Big Thought Institute Officer. “I am proud of the care and attention to youth and family needs that have driven our collective work. The conviction and commitment the team has had to SEL and the important role SEL plays in both navigating through and healing from these times is an inspiration.”

Funded by the Wallace Foundation, Partnership for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI) is a six-year initiative that aims to align and improve SEL practices across school and out-of-school settings. Dallas is one of six communities across the nation chosen to participate, and we’re excited to be launching our Phase 2 sites for the 2021-22 school year. 

“PSELI Phase I has been a tremendously rewarding experience and one that will pay dividends for our youth and community for years to come,” MacPherson said. “We are grateful to each of the partners who have contributed to the learning that has occurred and to the resources that have been developed and deployed. Now the challenging work of replicating and scaling these efforts more broadly begins. We’re excited to roll up our sleeves and get going!”

In addition to the seven current Dallas ISD campuses that are PSELI Phase 1 sites, seven new campuses will begin their social and emotional learning journey.

SEL Dallas Phase 1 Sites

  • Bayles Elementary | Dallas ISD Extended Learning Opportunities  
  • Leila Cowart Elementary | Dallas Park & Recreation 
  • Lorenzo DeZavala Elementary | ISD Extended Learning Opportunities
  • Edwin Kiest Elementary | Dallas Park & Recreation 
  • Asher Silberstein Elementary | Dallas Park & Recreation 
  • Daniel Webster Elementary | Big Thought Thriving Minds

SEL Dallas Phase 2 Sites

  • John Quincy Adams Elementary | ISD Extended Learning Opportunities
  • Harrell Budd Elementary | ISD Extended Learning Opportunities
  • Cedar Crest Elementary | Boys & Girls Club
  • William Lipscomb Elementary | Boys & Girls Club
  • B.H. Macon Elementary | Dallas Park & Recreation 
  • Esperanza Medrano Elementary | ISD Extended Learning Opportunities
  • Clinton P. Russell Elementary | Dallas Park & Recreation

And as we return to the classroom, social and emotional learning is — 
and must remain — a top priority. The Department of Education has recognized SEL as a main focus in reopening, citing its importance in providing support to address the traumas that youth — and especially youth in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic — have faced over the last year. 

At SEL Dallas our vision is to help build a city where children and adults are prepared with the social and emotional skills to lead healthy, productive lives. Focusing on the five key SEL competencies — self-management, self-awareness, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness — can help us support the emotional well-being of students as well as teachers

SEL skills can help with emotion regulation and building strong relationships, both of which can help youth navigate the effects of a difficult year. SEL strategies can also help promote mindfulness and be easily integrated at home

The 2021-22 school year won’t be without its challenges, but we know how resilient and strong our youth, educators and communities are. We wish everyone a great year and look forward to continuing to serve as a resource for social and emotional learning.