Start the year well with SEL

Social and emotional learning is critical to Dallas ISD’s mission to educate all students for success, as it builds the skills, knowledge and attitudes that students and staff need to thrive.

“SEL is integrated into everything that we do,” said Juany Valdespino-Gaytan, executive director of Social and Emotional Learning. “Specifically, we’re talking about self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. These are skills you have to practice throughout the day every day, and our students are constantly looking to us as examples.” 

As staff are settling into the new school year, it’s a great time to take advantage of the SEL resources available throughout the district. They can be practiced at home, in the office or in the classroom to create healthier, safer environments in our communities. 

The SEL Department has developed supplemental resources to support teachers as they lead regular SEL explicit skills learning this school year, which are available in Schoology. To find additional explicit skills curriculum recommendations, visit

Valdespino-Gaytan also recommends using the Rhithm app—available across the district at all schools—as a way to check in. After answering a short, emoji-based survey, users receive 30-second to three-minute videos based on how they are feeling that day. With regular practice, the app can create a “sense of security” that help is available regardless of what someone is going through. 

“If we’re going to ask something of students, it’s important that we as adults are ready to practice and model it first,” Valdespino-Gaytan said. “Starting off at the beginning of the year is helpful, but it’s never too late to be intentional about applying social and emotional skills to your daily actions if you need a reset.”

The SEL Department provides district-wide professional learning opportunities, coaching sessions at the campus level, parent and community information sessions, and SEL resources.   To learn more about SEL practices and services in place across the district, visit You can also explore the district’s SEL in Action Playlist for tips on everything from mindfulness to positive affirmations. 

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