Developing SEL Skills in a Prison, Orphanage and Stanford University

Published: Sep 23 2020

At first glance, commonalities between an Iowa women’s prison, a teen sex education office, an alternative school in neutral gang territory, an orphanage in Rwanda, and Stanford University is difficult to identify. But there are actually two things all of these locations have in common – social emotional learning and today’s guest, Lara Schmidt.

Lara is a teacher on special assignment with the San Francisco Unified School District. She is currently a co-director of its Advancement Via Individual Determination program serving first generation college students and also an Induction Coach working with new teachers. Prior to this post, Lara earned a Master’s degree in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where she also lectured and worked as assistant director of professional development; while in graduate school, she was also a policy analyst intern for restorative justice initiatives with SFUSD, where she previously established a special education program at Leadership High School. But before any of that, Lara was a Fund for Teachers Fellow and designed a fellowship to investigate how Agahoza-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda teaches traumatized students coping skills through social emotional learning curriculum, advisory programs and service learning. My initial conversation with Lara was postponed due to the wildfires threatening San Francisco, so I was grateful for the opportunity to visit with her about her passion for social emotional learning, students burdened with multiple childhood traumas and the teachers who work alongside them.