CASEL Awards

CASEL presents annual awards in research, practice, and public policy.

To recognize outstanding achievements and encourage high standards in the field of social and emotional learning, CASEL presents annual awards in research, practice, and public policy.

CASEL believes that great movements are built on collaboration with others to produce the richest insights, biggest impacts, and best outcomes in support of children. The awards recognize individuals whose body of work and commitment to SEL have advanced the field and paved the way for others.

The awards honor individuals who played leading roles in the early years of the organization:

  • Joseph E. Zins Awards for Social and Emotional Learning Action Research
  • Mary Utne O’Brien Awards for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning
  • Ann S. Nerad Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Advance Policies for Social and Emotional Learning

2021 Social and Emotional Learning Leaders of the Year

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CASEL has announced recipients of the 2021 SELLY Awards, honoring outstanding achievements of six “Social and Emotional Learning Leaders of the Year” in the categories of research, practice, and public policy.

Did you miss our virtual celebration, November 8-12? Tune into the on-demand conversations with each recipient using the links below as they share their perspectives on SEL research, practice, and policy.

2021 Recipients

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    • Joseph E. Zins Awards for Social and Emotional Learning Action Research

      Tia Barnes, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. In her current role, she teaches early childhood preservice teachers and conducts research on the social emotional well-being of minoritized populations. Dr. Barnes received her doctorate in August 2013 from the University of Florida where she majored in special education with an emphasis on emotional and/or behavioral disorders (EBD) and minored in research and evaluation methodology. She then worked at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence where her work focused on classroom environments for students with EBD and examining social emotional learning through a culturally responsive lens. She has published work in several journals including Infant and Child Development, the Journal of School Violence, Aggression and Violent Behavior, and Beyond Behavior. She is the creator of the Scholarly Self-Care podcast which focuses on supporting the social and emotional well-being of teachers, parents, and other caregivers.  In her free time she loves to read, listen to podcasts, and play with her little ones. Find out more about her at

    • Ann S. Nerad Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Advance Policies for Social and Emotional Learning

      Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University and founding president of the Learning Policy Institute, created to provide high-quality research for policies that enable equitable and empowering education for each and every child. She is past president of the American Educational Research Association and author of more than 30 books and 600 other publications on educational quality and equity, including the award-winning book: The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity will Determine our Future. In 2006, she was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy. She led the Obama education policy transition team in 2008 and the Biden education transition team in 2020. She was appointed President of the California State Board of Education in 2019. She is also Board Member Emeritus at CASEL.

    • Ann S. Nerad Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Advance Policies for Social and Emotional Learning

      Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation’s investments in education, health, and employment.

      At the core of Rosa’s work is her fight for America’s working families. Rosa believes that we must raise the nation’s minimum wage, give all employees access to paid sick days, allow employees to take paid family and medical leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Every day, Rosa fights for legislation that would give all working families an opportunity to succeed.

      Rosa believes that our first priority must be to strengthen the economy and create good middle class jobs. She supports tax cuts for working and middle class families, fought to expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to millions of families, and introduced the Young Child Tax Credit to give families with young children an economic lift.

      Rosa has also fought to stop trade agreements that lower wages and ships jobs overseas, while also protecting the rights of employees and unions. She believes that we need to grow our economy by making smart innovative investments in our infrastructure, which is why she introduced legislation to create a National Infrastructure bank.

      Rosa is a leader in fighting to improve and expand federal support for child nutrition and for modernizing our food safety system. She believes that the U.S. should have one agency assigned the responsibility for food safety, rather than the 15 different agencies that lay claim to different parts of our food system. Rosa fights against special interests, like tobacco and e-cigarettes, which seek to skirt our public health and safety rules.

      As the Chair dealing with appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Rosa is determined to increase support for education and make college more affordable for more American students and their families. She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act so that all Americans have access to affordable care. Rosa strongly believes in the power of biomedical research and she is working to increase funding so that we can make lifesaving breakthroughs in science and medicine.

      Rosa believes that we have a moral obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families, and her concern for these heroes extends to both their physical and mental well-being. Rosa supports a transformation in how the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, including advanced appropriations for health services, to ensure its fiscal soundness; and she successfully championed legislation to guarantee that troops deploying to combat theaters get the mental health screening they need both before and after deployment, as well as championed legislation that now provides assistance to today’s Post-9/11 veterans choosing to pursue on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

      Rosa belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

      Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, Rosa followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office; Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd.

      In 1990, Rosa was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District ever since. Rosa is married to Stanley Greenberg. Their children—Anna, Kathryn, and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. Rosa and Stan have six grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, Jasper, Paola and Gus.

    • Joseph E. Zins Awards for Social and Emotional Learning Action Research

      Edmund Gordon is the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Yale University, Richard March Hoe Professor, Emeritus of Psychology and Education and Founding Director of the Institute of Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University. From July 2000 until August 2001 Gordon was Vice President of Academic Affairs and Interim Dean at Teachers College, Columbia University. Professor Gordon’s distinguished career spans professional practice, scholarly life as a minister, clinical and counseling psychologist, research scientist, author, editor, and professor. He held appointments at several of the nation’s leading universities including Howard, Yeshiva, Columbia, City University of New York, Yale, and the Educational Testing Service. He has served as visiting professor at City College of New York and Harvard. Currently, Professor Gordon is the Senior Scholar and Advisor to the President of the College Board where he developed and co-chaired the Taskforce on Minority High Achievement. Author and/or editor of over 15 books and over 175 articles Gordon is a psychologist and expert in child development who has worked throughout his career on the issues and challenges of underprivileged and minority students in American education. As a clinician and researcher, he explored divergent learning styles and advocated for supplemental education long before most scholars had recognized the existence and importance of those ideas. He was Chief of the Head Start Research Office under President Lyndon Johnson and from 2011 to 2013 he organized and mentored the (ETS) Gordon Commission, bringing together scholars to research and report on the Future of Assessment for Education. His most recent publication, Human Variance and Assessment for Learning, co-edited with Eleanor Armour-Thomas, Cynthia McCallister, and A. Wade Boykin (October 2019, Third World Press), is a further development of ideas generated from the Gordon Commission.

      Originally published by Teachers College, Columbia University

    • Mary Utne O’Brien Awards for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning

      Keeth Matheny, a.k.a. “Coach Rudy,” is a national award-winning teacher, author, and speaker. He was a 2015 winner of the Crystal Star Award for Excellence in supporting student success from the National Dropout Prevention Center. In addition, he was a member of the Aspen Institute’s SEAD Council of Distinguished Educators and supported the creation of their “A Nation at Hope” report. Keeth is the founder of SEL Launchpad, an organization provides engaging, inspiring, and actionable professional development to help launch and support SEL programs. Keeth is a passionate and dedicated former classroom teacher with over 25 years of experience. He created and taught an innovative freshman SEL seminar which was featured in an article in The Atlantic, and has now spread to many more schools and districts. Keeth is a co-author of School-Connect, a research and evidence-based social and emotional learning curriculum which is used in over two thousand secondary schools. He is a frequent keynote speaker on SEL, emotional intelligence, and multi-tiered systems of student supports. Last spring, with the help of his son, a filmmaker, he created free SEL video lessons for remote teachers to use during spring school closures. These videos had over 100,000 users from more than a dozen countries. Since 2014, he has helped launch over four hundred SEL programs in secondary schools, led over three hundred teacher trainings, keynoted for eighteen conferences, and presented at two congressional briefings on Social and Emotional Learning in Washington DC. Keeth lives in Austin Texas with his wife of twenty-five years and is the father of two children.

    • Mary Utne O’Brien Awards for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning

      Eric Moore is currently the Senior Officer of Accountability, Research and Equity for the Minneapolis Public Schools (2016-present). As Chief of Accountability, Eric provides leadership for the full scope of the Research, Evaluation, Accountability and Assessment Department (REAA), as well as district level efforts around the district strategic and department plans, equity, social and emotional learning, school integration, and school improvement efforts.  Prior to this appointment, Eric provided four years of leadership to MPS as the Executive Director of REAA (2013-2016), leading efforts in district assessments, youth and parent participatory evaluation, social and emotional measurement, 9th grade on-track systems, data visualization, and out of school time evaluation.  He has over 20 years of mixed method program evaluation experience in K-12 education, juvenile justice, out of school time programming, and organizational development.  

       Mr. Moore is a former Woodrow Wilson fellow recipient at the University of Texas, Austin (1993) and a graduate of the Strategic Data Project at the Center for Education Policy Research, Harvard University (2015-2017). He served as a member of the Institute for Educational Sciences (IES) Social and Behavioral Education Research Grant Peer Review Panel 2019-2021, the CASEL assessment work group (2017-2019), the CASEL Equity and SEL work group (2017-2019) and the Minnesota Department of Education ESSA Accountability Technical Committee (2017-2018). Eric holds a BA in English Education at Langston University, a MA in Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and has completed preliminary examinations towards his PhD in Organizational Learning, Policy, and Development (Evaluation Studies) at the University of Minnesota.  

       Over the past decade, Eric has presented at numerous conferences such as Learning Forward (NSDC), the American Evaluation Association (AEA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Council of Great City Schools (COGS), The National Assessment Governing Board  (NAGB),  the CASEL SEL Exchange, and the Aspen Institute on topics such as race and student achievement, racial identity and data interpretation, equity and data collection, youth evaluation practices and systemic SEL. Recent district work, in which Mr. Moore participated, has also been featured in Children and Youth Services Review (2021) Education Week (2019, 2020), CASEL State of the Field Report (2019) and the Aspen Institute School Improvement Guide on SEL and Equity (2019).  Eric is passionate about using program evaluation, organizational development and measurement to address racial and economic inequalities in urban school systems.     

Joseph E. Zins Awards for Social and Emotional Learning Action Research

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Joseph E. Zins - A light-skinned, male-presenting person with a mustache wearing a tie

The Zins Award was established in 2007 to honor the memory of collaborator Joseph E. Zins, a research pioneer in SEL and former director of the University of Cincinnati’s doctoral program. We present the awards to two investigators and researchers per year that are at distinct phases in their careers: an early-career researcher and an established scholar.

The early-career researcher is limited to researchers at the research scientist, assistant, or associate professor level. The established scholar is a senior investigator or full professor who has advanced the field in important and meaningful ways, across the span of a distinguished career.

These contributions could include applied research, theoretical contributions, or research on curriculum, policies, or practices.

      • Early Career Recipients: Sara Rimm-Kaufman (2007), Marc Brackett (2009), Celene Domitrovich (2011), Angela Lee Duckworth (2012), Stephanie Jones (2013), David Yeager (2015) Camille A. Farrington (2018), Anne Gregory (2018), Clark McKown (2020)
      • Distinguished Scholar Recipients: Maurice Elias (2011), Edward Zigler (2011), J. David Hawkins (2012), Joseph Durlak (2013), Kimberly Schonert-Reichl (2015), David Osher (2018), and Laura Hamilton (2020)

Mary Utne O’Brien Awards for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of SEL

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The Utne O’Brien Award was established in 2011 to honor the memory and dedication to high-quality practice of Mary Utne O’Brien, former CASEL executive director and key leader in the SEL field. We present the awards to two district or school leaders per year who have provided the vision, inspiration, and practical strategies for developing the infrastructure and support for high-quality SEL at the district or school level.

      • District or School Leaders: Carol Comeau (2012), Jillian Ahrens (2013), Linda DePriest (2013), Koua Jacklyn Franz (2013), Ed Graff (2013), Sherrie Raven (2013), Trish Shaffer (2013), Kristina Tank-Crestetto(2013), Karen VanAusdal (2013), and Michelle Van Allen (2018), Sheldon Berman (2020), Byron Sanders (2020)
      • Federal or State Policymaking: Congresswoman Judy Biggert (2011), Congressman Dale Kildee (2011), Congressman Tim Ryan (2012), Ellen Moir (2015), James Comer (2015), Joan Duffell (2018), Tom Roderick (2018)

Ann S. Nerad Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Advance Policies for Social and Emotional Learning

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Ann NeradThe Ann S. Nerad Award for Distinguished Contributions to Advance Policies for Social and Emotional Learning was established in 2021 and will be presented this year for the first time to two recipients that are leading SEL public policy.

    • There are no past recipients for this award.

Hear from Past Recipients

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