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Update: Allentown Social Emotional Learning Inititaive Featuring DECA and DESSA

by Gabe Smith, Research Associate with DCRC, Becky Guzie and Elissa Sewell, PATHS Coaches with DCRC

For the past two years Devereux Center for Resilient Children (DCRC) has teamed up with Allentown School District in Pennsylvania to implement a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative. Part of this partnership includes having two Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) coaches collaborate with the teachers and staff  of 12 Allentown elementary schools. Below, DCRC’s PATHS Coaches, Becky Guzie and Elissa Sewell, share their experiences with supporting delivery of the PATHS SEL curriculum, and using the DECA and DESSA as tools to track child outcomes.

“As coaches we are able to:

*  provide resources on social-emotional learning

*  give constructive feedback to teachers on lesson delivery, and

* problem-solve through any difficult situations that teachers have within the social-emotional learning realm.

In addition we put together a monthly newsletter of helpful tips each month for teachers.  We are DCRC’s boots on the ground supporting teachers and principals on a daily basis.

Through our role as PATHS coaches we see firsthand the positive work being done through this collaborative initiative.  Most teachers didn’t think about social emotional learning until PATHS was introduced. Motivating the teachers and providing the appropriate feedback they need to meet the needs of their students on a social emotional-level seems to make a real difference.

Student’s reactions to PATHS were also an extremely rewarding part of our work. One student had several behavioral issues at the beginning of the school year, but when he learned the breathing techniques taught in PATHS lessons for “calming down,” he was better able to self-regulate and stop himself before making a poor choice. Teachers enjoy watching their students identify their feelings and take problem-solving into their own hands instead of depending on teacher input for help.

We will continue as PATHS coaches this upcoming school year in Allentown. This year is exciting because all teachers have a solid foundation in social emotional-learning and we can extend SEL ideas and work throughout the school day. This year we will be working more closely with the DECA and DESSA assessments that teachers complete three times a year. We hope to train teachers to interpret the assessment results so they can focus their instruction on building upon student’s social-emotional strengths and developing their areas of need.  We are looking forward to another successful year partnering with Allentown School District!”

Check out Becky and Elissa’s Newsletters for teachers implementing the PATHS curriculum here



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