Grant to help district integrate social-emotional learning awareness and practices

Lakeville Area Public Schools has received a $29,899 grant from the PrairieCare Child & Family Fund to help the district in its efforts to integrate social-emotional learning district-wide and provide expanded services to individual students needing additional support.


Lisa Holien, student support services coordinator for the district, said a large portion of grant funding will provide critical resources to help train teachers and other staff members to understand social-emotional learning, the relationship between social-emotional learning and academic achievement, and how to embed social-emotional learning in daily practice.


“The grant is going to provide a really intentional opportunity to have conversations that staff are eager to have around social-emotional learning,” Holien said.


Social-emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain relationships, and make responsible decisions according to CASEL, an organization formed in 1994 with the goal of establishing high quality, evidence-based social-emotional learning. Studies show that well-integrated, cohesive social-emotional learning engages students and improves achievement.


“Every student has social-emotional learning needs,” Holien said. “All staff can help foster social-emotional learning by intentionally promoting and teaching these skills, cultivating strong student-staff connections, and understand that every student has her or his own story that affects their learning experience.”


The grant will help pay for the first of up to three years of work with Dr. Clay Cook, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Educational Psychology who specializes in school-based mental health, multi-tiered systems of support, and implementation science.


Cook will work with building level teams to provide foundational training on social-emotional learning and help to establish recognition of social-emotional learning as essential to Lakeville’s academic mission. Part of that is helping teachers and staff members develop meaningful relationships with students.


“Rarely does anything successful happen outside quality relationships, and strong student engagement toward school can’t happen outside quality relationships, either,” Holien said.


Other staff members are excited for the work the grant will foster.


We are so excited to get started on this project,” said Renae Ouillette, executive director of student services and special education. Ouillette thanked Prairie Care and the Prairie Care Child and Family Fund for the support. She credited Holien and staff members Judy Johnson, Julia Peterson, Julene Oxton, Kari Hastad, and Nancy Kasella for their work on the grant application. “We are very lucky to have such dedicated faculty in our district!”


In addition to the work with Dr. Cook, slated to begin this fall, early identification and intervention services for students needing more individualized support are also funded by this grant.

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