Lancaster ISD Shines with SEL

Located just outside of Dallas, Texas, Lancaster ISD serves about 8,000 students who spent the 2020-21 school year learning in a hybrid model, with some reporting to campus and others learning from home. But throughout the transition to this new learning style and the challenges that come with it, their social emotional learning practices kept students and educators grounded, supported, and connected.

A District-Wide Focus on SEL

“SEL is at the heart of what we do as educators. We are in the people business, so it is essential that we help our students to not just learn academics, but also the skills necessary to be successful in the world.” – Dr. Tonia Howard, Chief of Leadership Development and Special Programs

In Rolling Hills Engineering Academy, elementary school students navigated new safety procedures on campus and the challenge to feel connected while joining a classroom community over Zoom. Educators found support in Move This World to help manage this new type of learning environment. Principal Cherish Pipkins shared, “Move This World has given our students a language, it’s even helped our teachers because they’re able to utilize those same strategies to be self aware, to be mindful of what’s going on in their community with their students or even with other adults. So it’s been very impactful for us.”

Move This World’s social emotional learning curriculum allowed teachers to increase their capacity to check on and support students’ social emotional wellbeing. Interactive, participatory exercises kept students connected through movement, play, and the most critical element: fun. 

Napier Elementary School, located in the Metro Nashville area, is a school that carried a negative connotation in every way due its long standing low performance. Located in the poorest neighborhood in the city of Nashville, our students experienced extreme violence and neglect on a regular basis. At one point, we were actually the lowest performing school in the entire state of Tennessee.

Our school is named after Alonzo Napier, a member of the prominent Napier family. The family has a rich history in politics, finance and education, and spent the early 1900’s trying to make Nashville a better place for African Americans. Despite their efforts, the neighborhood that bears their name today is plagued with high poverty, high crime, abuse, neglect, and low expectations.

KVRR Local News in Fargo, ND featuring Move This World at Lancaster ISD in Lancaster, TX in a broadcast segment on December 28, 2021 about innovative schools.

SEL for PreK-12th Grade

From elementary schools through high school, students in the district receive regular, foundational social emotional learning. Dr. Tonia Howard, Chief of Leadership Development and Special Programs, reflected on why they initially started to prioritize SEL throughout the district. “We were really noticing that we had some challenges in the classroom and we wanted to have some tools that we can utilize. ​​Before the pandemic began, our administrators had already expressed an increased need to support students, who were struggling with social and emotional challenges. Move This World has been a great resource for us, and easy to transition to virtual instruction during the pandemic. We allotted funds from our federal grant to support a district-wide implementation plan so that we would have continuity across all grade levels.”

District leaders at Lancaster ISD know that social emotional skills aren’t just developed in elementary school but throughout a student’s life. High school students in Lancaster ISD, especially, benefit from daily SEL instruction. From college prep to meeting graduation requirements, managing sports and clubs and social activities, to holding jobs and adjusting to new responsibilities, high school students are navigating a lot. High school counselor Delia Moffitt shares that Move This World is “just the time of the day they can all kind of release and not be so serious, especially the seniors, because they’re applying for college and have all kind of stuff is going on.” Social emotional learning with Move This World is an integral part of Lancaster High School’s counseling initiatives and was a contributing factor for the school to win the prestigious CREST counseling award in 2020. 

Educators in Lancaster ISD deeply understand the relevance, importance, and transformative potential of SEL, and the district-wide commitment to SEL has made them a leading district. Dr. Howard reflects on this ethos, sharing “SEL is important to me because it is at the heart of what we do as educators. We are in the people business, so it is essential that we help our students to not just learn academics, but also the skills necessary to be successful in the world.”


Learn more about SEL at Lancaster ISD:

Focus Daily News Article: Lancaster ISD Successfully Navigates Challenges of the Pandemic

Webinar: Finding Stability Through ChangeL The Role of SEL in School Communities

SEL Ambassador Spotlight: Cherish Pipkins

Our vision was to inspire leaders, learners and high achievers, with goals of having zero suspensions in a school year and the creation of a behavioral support plan to support our student’s needs.

We established core values that involved having a mutually respectful environment, providing rigorous instruction and supporting the social and emotional needs of our students and families. Once we established our identify and figured who we were, we were able to create who wanted to become.

It Takes a Village: Systemic SEL Implementation

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There is no one person or designated class responsible for supporting the social and emotional development of students. All influencers in a school community play an important role. Download ready-to-use resources for implementing SEL at the district, school, classroom, and community level.


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