Immaculata’s New Endorsement Program Trains Teachers to Address Students’ Social, Emotional, Behavioral Needs

Mark Hostutler
By

For Janel Graham, the timing was perfect for enrolling in Immaculata University’s new Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Wellness PK-12 (SEL) endorsement program. The Perkiomen Valley School District elementary teacher is currently volunteering to be a fully virtual second grade teacher.

“I am using my SEL training during our live, synchronous sessions every single day,” said Graham, who has taught at the school district for more than 20 years. “Morning and afternoon social emotional check-ins have been standard,” she said, while acknowledging the challenges that COVID-19 has placed on students and the learning environment.

The SEL is a fully online, 10-credit endorsement program that helps educators acquire knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand emotions. It also helps PK-12 students manage their emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and show empathy for others; establish and maintain positive relationships; and make responsible decisions.

After years of talking with teachers and administrators as a life-long educator and former dean of Immaculata’s College of Graduate Studies, Dr. Tom O’Brien recognized that they needed help with the social and emotional needs of the students in their schools and districts.

“What I wanted was to empower teachers to address problems in their classrooms, not as experts, but as frontline professionals to provide prevention and/or intervention,” O’Brien said.

Before enrolling in the SEL endorsement, William Stabert, a teacher, contacted O’Brien to get a better idea of what the endorsement entailed. After discussing the program, Stabert realized the program was exactly what he was seeking in order to help him with the youth he works with — not just the at-risk youth. Stabert realizes that society has changed so dramatically in the past few decades.

“Academic pressures, professionalization of youth sports, competition, and influence of social media have all impacted the overall wellness of our students,” he said. “If there are ways that we can help minimize the impact, or help cope with the pressures, I want to learn them and incorporate them into my teaching.”

O’Brien recognizes that the entire educational environment is enriched because of students like William who seek learning not just for their own benefit, but also for what they can do for others. “This is what we are about at Immaculata — to learn so that we can be of service to others,” he said.

Immaculata’s College of Graduate Studies is offering a 25 percent tuition discount for endorsement programs, making it $535 per credit for the 2020-21 academic year. Throughout the program, students complete 45 hours of on-site clinical experiences closely integrated with coursework, assessment practices, and program goals.

“This program offering reflects our emphasis on preparing today’s educators to contribute to school effectiveness and improve opportunities for student learning,” said Dr. Melissa Reed, Chair of the Education Division.

Graham sums up the issue by simply stating, “Students can’t focus on learning if they don’t feel safe and supported.”

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