Muscatine CSD receives grant for social emotional learning

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–When children feel safe and cared for at school, their confidence and ability to learn grows by leaps and bounds. For the past several years, Muscatine Community School District has focused on providing social and emotional learning opportunities, helping staff members implement best practices that can help students feel more self-aware, have more empathy for each other, and create a respectful learning environment. Sept. 12, Muscatine Community School District received a $100,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Education and Health and Human Services, the largest of 10 grants given out to support social and emotional health in schools across the state.

According to Paige Williams, the district’s social-emotional behavioral health specialist, the district has put in a lot of work developing the social and emotional learning opportunities for students by creating a district team focused on providing professional development related to social and emotional learning, working with a consultant to develop a tiered system of social-emotional supports for students at all levels, and adding more staff focused on social and emotional health, including having guidance counselors in every building.

This most recent grant will allow the district to extend their professional development opportunities not just to teachers but to all hourly staff members as well, providing paid trainings for them on inservice days when students do not have school. Jamie Kroeger, director of human resources and equity explained, “the award of these funds enables us to provide SEL training for all of our district staff regardless of position because we know that every person in our schools plays a vital role in our students’ successes, whether you’re the bus driver, a food service employee, para, nurse, teacher, counselor, custodian, or secretary.”

The district held their first training for staff members Sept. 16 at the Merrill Hotel. That day, more than 300 support staff members came together to receive training on social and emotional learning best practices informed by TILL 360’s social and emotional learning support framework. “The greatest thing about SEL/SEBH learning is that it’s not just ‘one more thing’ to do; it’s truly an immersive and embedded piece of the learning environment meant to meet our kids’ needs where they are,” Kroeger said.

As the district looks ahead to additional staff training days focused on social emotional learning, Williams appreciates all the ways the grant the district received will help enhance the professional developpment opportunities they can offer: “We were very excited to learn that we were awarded the full amount of $100,000. The fact that we were awarded the full amount and also the highest amount awarded to any of the nine other recipients feels like validation for all of the work that we have done and continue to do around social-emotional learning and in providing a system of supports that acknowledges the needs of the whole child.”

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