SEL Ambassador Spotlight: Jessica Drzewucki from P.S. 128, the Bensonhurst School

In this series, we’ll be spotlighting SEL Ambassadors from the Move This World community. 

We are excited to introduce to you Principal Jessica Drzewucki from P.S. 128, the Bensonhurst School! We recently spoke with her about what SEL looks like in her school, which serves a diverse population of students from around the world. Learn how Social Emotional Learning programs have been a central force for connection at her school, even as they transitioned to remote learning during COVID19. 

MTW: What does SEL look like in your community?

Principal Drzewucki: PS128 has been involved with The Leader in Me process for several years as part of our SEL program. Through this process, which was developed by The Franklin Covey Institute, we focus individual and group growth around the concept of the 7 Habits. We launch each day here with a Leadership period, during which children receive direct teaching around leadership skills (being proactive, synergizing, thinking win-win, etc.), connect leadership ideals to texts and historical/current events, and work together to strengthen each other and the community. When we found Move This World a few years ago, we thought that it melded beautifully with what we were already doing! Bringing in self-reflection, self-regulation, and physical/emotional expression into the mix has closed the loop on our SEL learning and made our program one of the hallmarks of our community.

MTW: How did you know your community needed the support of an SEL program? 

Principal Drzewucki: My school is comprised mostly of new immigrants, coming from many different places around the world. Students are struggling to adjust to a new language, a new environment, and new people. Having a strong SEL program is crucial to helping to ease the stress caused by this situation. The shared language associated with our SEL partner programs is one of the first buckets of English that students learn at PS128, and it grounds children in feeling confident in their efforts and part of a community. 

MTW: How has a comprehensive SEL curriculum impacted your community? 

Principal Drzewucki: Having a strong SEL program allows us to build interpersonal and team relationships at our school in a way we would not be able to without it. We are able to provide structured, supported activities and environments for children to express, share, and process together. Our SEL program also provides additional ways to get families involved through Leader of the Month recognition ceremonies, family literacy and art workshops based around our SEL work, newsletters, and interactive learning opportunities. 

MTW: Tell me about a time that you noticed the impact of SEL on a specific student, class, staff member, or family in your community.

Principal Drzewucki: This is an easy one. When we transitioned to a fully remote platform in the spring due to the pandemic, we couldn’t have been happier that we had a built-in, supportive way to begin and end our days. Our SEL partner program materials allowed us to explore and process the big emotions we were all experiencing, in a way that already felt familiar. As we have transitioned to a blended model this fall, we continue to rely heavily on our SEL work to engage children and bind us together as a community despite physical distance. 

MTW: What advice do you have for schools that are new to implementing an SEL curriculum?

Principal Drzewucki: If you are new to implementing an SEL curriculum, please stop worrying about the “time it takes away from other things!” Having emotionally strong, resilient, kind, community-oriented children and adults in the building makes everything go more smoothly, and this “saves time” for academics in the long run.  

Thank you, Principal Drzewucki, for all that you do to Move This World in your school community! We hope you find some valuable takeaways to support social emotional learning in your school community.

To learn more about Move This World’s PreK-12 SEL programs, connect with us here.

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