By Judith Nuss, CASEL Consultant, Collaborating Districts Initiative in Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Austin Independent School District
I have participated in the National School Climate (NSCC) Summer Institute several times. Each time I come away rejuvenated, educated, and inspired with enhanced skills and knowledge to activate positive change in our schools for teachers, students and parents. Probably my most memorable institute experience was my first one in the summer of 2006. At the time, I had just completed my rookie year as Director of Social and Emotional Learning in a distressed urban public school district in a state capital city. I went to the Summer Institute as a true and eager learner – wanting to know all the research and the best practices for promoting social and emotional learning.
That was the summer I first met Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a most personable professor and researcher - down to earth, advanced in social and emotional competence, and always with an appreciative voice that could sooth a raging bull. To date, Jon remains a valued mentor and colleague. I always value effective leadership.
I also first met Mary Utne O’Brien, then Executive Director of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.) After being mesmerized by Mary’s keynote message, I participated in a small break-out session she facilitated. In addition to meeting the learning needs of this session’s group, Mary warmly counseled me, responded enthusiastically and knowledgably to my questions, and greatly inspired me to strenuously climb the uphill challenge I was leading in my district – that of promoting district-wide and explicit social and emotional learning for all K-12 students.