Sowing seeds of SEL

University-district partnership builds social and emotional learning across the teacher pipeline

By Nancy L. Markowitz, Wendy Thowdis and Michael Gallagher
Categories: Social & emotional learning
August 2018
Vol. 39 No. 4
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical to the success of students from preschool through high school — and for educators, across all stages of the career continuum. Because SEL skills take time to develop and mature, they should be part of the content addressed in teacher preparation programs, beginning teacher support, and ongoing teacher professional learning, including advanced teacher leadership. Unfortunately, training and support for SEL are rare at all of these levels. A national scan of U.S. teacher preparation programs found that these programs pay limited attention to SEL, and when they do, they address only some dimensions of this complex area (Schonert-Reichl, Hanson-Peterson, & Hymel, 2015). Surveys show that most K-12 teachers believe SEL is important and teachable (Bridgeland, Bruce, & Hariharan,

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Nancy Markowitz, Wendy Thowdis, and Michael Gallagher

Nancy Markowitz ( is executive director of the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child and professor emeritus at San José State University Department of Teacher Education.

Wendy Thowdis ( is assistant director of the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child and a lecturer in the Department of Sociology & Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at San José State University.

Michael Gallagher ( is deputy superintendent of human resources at Sunnyvale School District in Sunnyvale, California.



  1. Understand and use a common language to discuss SEL and culturally responsive teaching.
  2. Develop cooperating teachers’ ability to integrate SEL and culturally responsive teaching into their own practice.
  3. Strengthen the cooperating teachers’ ability to help teacher candidates integrate SEL and culturally responsive teaching into their practice.
  4. Connect co-teaching and social and emotional learning.
  5. Explore the dispositions necessary for teachers and students to thrive and feel successful.


  1. Be able to explain the importance of SEL to academic achievement and students’ ability to thrive.
  2. Be able to explain the connection between SEL skill development for teachers and learners and the achievement of Common Core State Standards.
  3. Be able to generate and try lessons with SEL foundational anchors to build a safe physical, social-emotional, and intellectual learning environment.
  4. Be able to identify SEL skills needed within content-specific lessons.




Aspen Institute. (2018, May). Pursuing social and emotional learning through an equity lens: A call to action. Washington, DC: Author.

Bouffard, S. (2017). No (good) teacher is an island: How Sunnyvale, California is creating a great pipeline of teaching and learning. Case study for Morgan Family Foundation.

Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Hariharan, A. (2013). The missing piece: A national teacher survey on how social and emotional learning can empower children and transform schools. Washington, DC: Civic Enterprise

Reinke, W.M., Stormont, M., Herman, K.C., Puri, R., & Goel, N. (2011). Supporting children’s mental health in schools: Teacher perceptions of needs, roles, and barriers. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(1), 1-13.

Schonert-Reichl, K., Hanson-Peterson, J.L., & Hymel, S. (2015). SEL and preservice teacher education. In J. Durlak, C.E. Domitrovich, R. Weissberg, & T.P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Walter, H.J., Gouze, K., & Lim, K.G. (2006). Teachers’ beliefs about mental health needs in inner city elementary schools. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(1), 61-68.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Nancy-markowitz-150x187-1
Founder and Executive Director at Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child (CRTWC) | + posts

Nancy L. Markowitz is the founder and executive director of the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child (CRTWC) and professor emerita in the Department of Teacher Education at San José State University. Her most recent work includes the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Teacher Educator Institute, an innovative program to scale the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child’s framework for integrating social, emotional, and cultural competencies into teaching.

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Categories: Social & emotional learning

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