A child thinks with a green light bulb over their head.

Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

History of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) at MSSA

The Montessori School of San Antonio began an SEL initiative in August 2021 in response to a summary recommendation from the ISAS Report of the Visiting Committee dated November 16, 2020 in conjunction with the ISAS visit February 9 – 12, 2020.

The recommendation stated: Social-emotional learning is a critical element of a healthy school. Visiting Committee members heard from parents and staff about the importance of the emotional life of the children. Setting a consistent protocol for addressing behavioral challenges and training for teachers in SEL strategies would support staff in their work with the students. As resources allow, assess the feasibility of on-site professional counseling.

Additionally, there had been ongoing interest from administration, faculty, and parents in having more coordinated programming that connected to student interactions, conflict resolution, and classroom community, as well as a desire to have an on-site school counselor. Efforts to create community and give students tools to manage emotions were already underway in classrooms, including direct skill instruction, classroom meetings, use of peace tables and processes, along with grace and courtesy lessons and a Middle School advisory program.

The SEL initiative began with foundational education about SEL for faculty, students, parents, and the Board of Trustees, and from there a committee was formed with faculty and staff representation from all divisions including Primary, Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, Specials, Administration, and Childcare. The faculty committee continued to meet and learn about SEL practices during the 2022-2023 school year, and in January 2023, the school adopted RULER, the evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Implementation of the RULER approach began with a faculty planning team in the Spring, and a part-time counselor was hired in March of 2023. RULER training for all faculty occurred in the fall of 2023. Currently MSSA has two full time counselors employed, and a counselor is on campus daily.

What is RULER?

RULER, an acronym for the five skills of emotional intelligence (recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating) is the evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The RULER approach cultivates competencies and skills that advance student learning and development, and it helps children better cope with everyday challenges as they develop the self-awareness, self-control and social skills that are important for school, work, and life success.

Ruler Links for Families

RULER approach

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Anchor Tools

peace corner
social emotional learning
social emotional learning

What is SEL?

SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

What is CASEL?

CASEL was formed in 1994 to establish high-quality, evidence-based SEL as an essential part of preschool through high school education. 1997, CASEL authored Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, which formally defined the field of SEL. Over the following decades, a large body of research demonstrated the effectiveness of SEL for supporting students’ academic and long-term success.

What does the research about SEL say?

Montessori Method and SEL

An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.
-Dr. Maria Montessori

There is a lot of overlap in Montessori philosophy with SEL competencies, as Dr. Maria Montessori was a pioneer in understanding the whole child and not just focusing on their cognitive abilities. The key Montessori tenets of “care of self,” “care of others,” and “care of environment,” line up with SEL’s focus on interpersonal skills and social skills. Additionally, both SEL and the Montessori method rely on understanding developmental phases in children.

Dr. Montessori believed each generation of children brings renewed hope for a more peaceful world. But so often in our practice we make the mistake of isolating peace as a separate curricular area. As children move from respecting their physical space to respectful collaboration, from projecting their own desires for peace and social justice to leading that change, they will come to understand that conflict is an opportunity for growth and understand
their own potential for leadership.
-American Montessori Society

Meet Our Part-Time Counselors

Jessica Harrison

Jessica Harrison, LPC, graduated with a Master of Education in Counseling from Sul Ross State University a member of the Texas State University System after earning her Bachelor of Business Administration in Interdisciplinary Business from Tarleton State University a member of the Texas A&M University System. She is a Certified Digital Wellness Practitioner, Certified Prepare/Enrich Facilitator, Certified First Responder Counselor, and Licensed Speech Language Pathologist-Assistant. Jessica served in many roles including, SLP-Assistant and LPC-Intern, in rural west Texas public schools for 8 ½ years. She has experience with both general and special education populations. Since relocating to San Antonio in 2018, Jessica has practiced within a group practice in Stone Oak. Recently, she opened a solo private practice, Courageous Counseling & Consulting, PLLC, in Stone Oak. Within her practice, Jessica utilizes an eclectic therapeutic approach which allows her the freedom to meet clients’ diverse needs while developing authentic relationships based on trust and safety.

As an advocate of lifetime learning, Jessica plans to continue to learn and grow in areas that would best serve the students at MSSA. She is committed to addressing mental health issues and providing solution-focused therapy and resources for MSSA families. Jessica is excited to be a part of such a unique community and is eager to meet parents and students over the coming weeks and months.

In her free time, Jessica enjoys exercising with her husband Jacob, cooking, and watching Netflix. She spends most of her time enjoying the outdoors with her family, friends, and dog, Bella.

We are thrilled to announce a new member of our counseling team. Daniel Torres will be working with Jessica Harrison, our current counselor, to ensure that our students receive the best possible care and guidance. Having the two of them means that a counselor will be available on campus every day of the week.

“As an LPC-Associate, I am fervently committed to aiding both children and adults in overcoming the obstacles that impede their journey to fulfilling their potential. My particular focus is on individuals striving to enhance their emotional/social skills to foster stronger connections. I believe that, with a harmonious blend of support and autonomy, children possess the capacity to evolve into empowered adults. The chance to play a role in their growth is an enduring honor and privilege, and I am continually grateful for this opportunity,” Daniel said.

Everyone is welcomed, accepted, and appreciated. We are committed to being an inclusive, welcoming, and peaceful community that respects diversity, demonstrates empathy and compassion, and exhibits grace and courtesy. Vision statement adopted April 2022 with input from students and faculty.

Request Information

"*" indicates required fields

Preferred Mode of Contact*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.