By Kristy Feden, Regional Facilitator, Region 5, Nebraska Department of Education
The current challenges, unrest and disruptions in our country stemming from COVID-19 and the heightened awareness of social injustice offered Nebraska an opportunity to assess current practices and increase collaboration across sectors.
The result is innovation that will bring educators, students, families and community partners to co-create transformative learning experiences that cultivate the social, emotional and academic competencies needed to contribute to an effective educational system, and allow all students to work toward the goal of learning, earning and living in Nebraska.
Equity is the cornerstone of educational systems in Nebraska and requires intentional integration of SEL with targeted academic support to ensure all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities. The Department of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment within the Nebraska Department of Education provides statewide support to ultimately help all learners become contributing and fulfilled members of society.
In response to COVID-19, the Department of Teaching, Learning and Assessment, in collaboration with the Office of Special Education, created Launch Nebraska — a comprehensive set of resources and tools for schools to utilize as they plan for school re-entry.
Nebraska has identified the critical importance of supporting student and adult mental health through this pandemic and the transition back to face-to-face learning, and launched a five-week virtual SEL series in July and August that was created by the NeMTSS team and emphasized resources for improving school culture, teacher efficacy, adult SEL, trauma-informed care, restorative practices and culturally responsive practices.
This fall, the NeMTSS team launched the 2020 NeMTSS Virtual Series titled, “Moving Forward Into the Unknown.” The six-week series, provided at no cost to districts, is designed to provide ongoing support for staff as they begin the new school year, and includes multiple nationally recognized experts who will share resources and strategies to facilitate and promote adult and student social-emotional wellness through an equity lens. The CASEL SEL Roadmap has been an integral resource throughout this process (Reunite, Renew, Thrive).
Another example of how Nebraska will be leveraging collaboration and partnerships in their efforts to move from disruption to innovation is through the integration of the Nebraska Healthy Schools Initiative (Healthy Schools) with our statewide MTSS build-out. By viewing these foundational needs as a part of the education model, rather than in competition, schools will be able to recognize these components as complementary and essential to support the needs of the whole child within their MTSS framework.
Nebraska currently has key initiatives in place including their partnership with the Mid-America Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) and a SAMHSA Project AWARE grant that will continue to be leveraged in the upcoming year to impact the social and emotional wellbeing of students, families and educational staff.
Nebraska places tremendous value on the learning opportunities, partnerships, and collaboration gained through the CSI, and we look forward to navigating our current situation in solidarity with all of you.