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Monday, November 9, 2020

Social Emotional Learning at Columbia School District

Columbia School District counselors are focusing their efforts during this critical time on mental health through social emotional learning, sometimes referred to as SEL.  This area of learning encompasses the process whereby our students attain and successfully apply the knowledge, outlooks and skills essential to recognize emotions, set goals, feel and show understanding and empathy, and form and sustain constructive affiliations and connections with others. When researching social emotional learning, educators have learned that students who benefit from SEL support may improve and achieve at a higher level.

Columbia Central High School counselor Wendy Diefenthaler explained that she has a Google Classroom with outside resources posted to help students with SEL and mental health concerns.  She continued by saying that, “We have posted different techniques for the students to go through when they are stressed, i.e. deep breathing, journaling, or drawing.”  In addition she mentioned that, “We have posted apps that are good for the kids to use. We are also all available for zoom sessions or phone calls.”

Columbia Elementary School counselor Ashley Phelps reported that all of the Columbia School District counselors contribute to a newsletter that contains resources and helpful tools on a monthly basis.  She continued by saying that, “CES has a SEL section in our building newsletter.  At CES I am doing class lessons, and providing recorded videos and video resources for teachers to play for classes focusing on different SEL topics.”  She talked about the fact that both elementary buildings have a daily mood meter with check-ins that have follow ups depending on student needs.

Columbia Central Junior High School counselor Storm Caryl talked about her work with small groups of students and information in the newsletter.  She mentioned that her, “Google classroom is updated weekly with tips and tricks to navigate online learning.”  She continued by saying that she often posts tips with positive affirmations, tips for testing anxiety, coping skills and a tentative schedule for students who have to be online for an extended time to use.”  One of the things that she often does to support students is to “reach out to all students who are struggling at home with grades and offer different skills for them to utilize based on their needs.”  She also holds a Health and wellness zoom session that focuses on mental health every Thursday.”  She collaborates with the Options High School teachers and provides them resources for their students.

At Columbia Options, Principal Lisa Klink mentioned that while they do not have a counselor, “our teachers have journals, circles and group chats. The students fill out individual surveys and have space for quiet contemplation when requested.  We also refer students to DoChas. Students are encouraged to grow and develop through rebuilding assignments with their teachers.”

Columbia Upper Elementary counselor Krista Schatzel mentioned that she has “provided Social Emotional support through guidance lessons, our Sources of Strength curriculum (a SEL curriculum for fifth and sixth grade), and individual counseling.”  During a normal school year, Mrs. Schatzel would also hold groups, but this year she is only working with individual students. 

Columbia School District is focused on nurturing our students and helping to empower them through a positive learning environment.  The social emotional learning activities that take place on all levels are important to our students’ growth and development.  Social-emotional learning has also been shown to positively influence mental health in students. Developing these abilities in our students is an important part of a positive successful future.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia’s emphasis on SEL, please contact the counselor at your child’s school or email me at .

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