The Power of Preventative Work: November SEL Champion of the Month

Welcome back to another SEL Champion of the Month blog post! Our November champion is Rebecca Whitesell! We initially met Rebecca at our first PLC group meeting. Inspired by the work she’s doing in her own community surrounding bullying prevention, we knew she had to be an iMPACTFUL SEL Champion! 


Starting in undergraduate school as a psychology major, Rebecca felt excited by the human brain, understanding the things we do, and why we do them. While getting her masters, she realized her passion for counseling and began working at schools because of her love for true community, and knowing that the role she plays in student’s lives is extremely important. 

Rebecca is motivated by the unpredictability of each day when working in a school and with students whose lives are always changing. Some days she’s there to help the teachers, on others the students, and some days, she supports the parents. But for Rebecca, her motivation comes down to making a difference in the lives of the students; “If I can make a difference in one student's life, I’ve done my job” (Rebecca Whitesell). 

Rebecca, in collaboration with other faculty has implemented impressive SEL programming at their school including community days that promote team building, student-led bullying prevention activities, a Student Bias Committee that provides a way for students to take action when they see bullying, and leveraging our film-based program, The Upstanders. There’s a heavy emphasis on preventative, as opposed to reactionary programming  — that’s what Rebecca believes really makes the difference. She also mentions that data collection and keeping a pulse with the students is crucial in understanding what is truly happening and how to create effective interventions. For example, there were murmurs from the Middle School that bullying was on the rise, yet no students were talking about it directly. So, to create preventative programming at the high school level, Rebecca and her colleagues employed student surveys to pinpoint what bullying was happening, where in the school it was occurring, and how often it took place. These results have informed the types of interventions created to ensure the school is a safe place for all students. 

Rebecca mentions that, for any SEL work, especially after the isolation the Pandemic brought, it’s vital to meet students where they are, and use this as a starting point to further build social and emotional skills. At her school, this starts in Pre-K, where they use Ruler from CASEL which focuses on emotional regulation, and teaches children how to verbalize their emotions. Grade appropriate SEL programming continues to be implemented all the way through high school. 

We hope you enjoyed reading about our SEL Champion for November, we’ve also included the full video above if watching is more your style! If you know of anyone in your own community that could be an SEL Champion, nominate them HERE! We’ll see you all in the next one!

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