Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month 2024: Celebrating our SEL Heroes

May 1, 2024
Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month 2024: Celebrating our SEL Heroes

As part of our celebration of CASEL’s 30th anniversary, we’re reflecting on our past as an organization and the evolution of the SEL field as a whole. For the past three decades, many SEL leaders have led the charge in research, in the classroom, in the school, and in the halls of legislation. In honor of Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month, we’d like to lift up the wisdom of some of the pioneering researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who have played a key role in advancing SEL and built a field that strives to support all children, young people, and adults. 

“A lot of the work is about reminding people that SEL is not an end in itself, but how we think, process, and create conditions to support student learning.”

Mai Xi Lee, Director of SEL, Sacramento County Office of Education
“A great teacher cares so much about their kids, and if they do that, they’re going to do a lot of the things that I study… The motivation is this amazing love.”

Angela Duckworth, founder and former CEO of Character Lab & professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania
“If we’re trying to create equitable learning environments that fully support their social, emotional and academic learning, then listening to young people’s perspectives is the only way to make informed decisions that best serve all students.” 

Justina Schlund, Vice President of Communications, CASEL
“Much of the work was [asking] how do I examine my own social, emotional skills… And I think it’s a large part because if we’re asking others to do this work, to invest in this journey, then I need to do so as well.”

Sun-chul (Sonny) Kim, former SEL & Leadership Program Manager, Oakland Unified School District (retired)
“In a world filled with noise, I’m grateful to help educators and young people learn strategies to quiet the mind in order to build knowledge.”

Chi Kim, CEO of Pure Edge Inc. and CASEL Board Member
“As research grows, the more we learn about SEL, the more we understand the greater need and balanced approach to addressing the whole child.” 

Fern Yoshida, Educational Specialist, Hawai’i Department of Education
“One of the things that I want to be very clear on is: If we’re going to have a strong, educational organization, we need to make sure we have people who have lived experiences, at all levels.”

Dr. Aimee Fearing, Senior Officer of Academics, Minneapolis Public Schools
“When you change your life and increase your well-being, you also impact the lives of those around you—this is one gift of social and emotional learning.”

Carey Tambio, Educational Specialist – Healthy Habits Healthy Schools, Hawaii Department of Education
“SEL is not only important, but is essential to every facet of our lives. SEL impacts our overall well-being. When we prioritize and embed SEL into all aspects of our lives, not only do we reap the benefits, but we create a ripple effect that impacts those around us, by fostering empathy, building connection, and embracing diversity, increasing emotional intelligence, ultimately centering on the skills needed to focus on developing the whole person.” 

Mai Nguyen, Director, Dept. of Social Emotional and Wellness Supports, Buffalo Public Schools
“I strongly believe that social emotional skills support and enhance success in building critical relationships to enhance educational experiences, to expand professional opportunities and promote personal growth and development.”

Christine Hiroshima, Independent Education Management Professional and former CASEL consultant
“As an AAPI leader, I champion social and emotional learning (SEL) because it equips our students and community with invaluable skills beyond academics. SEL cultivates resilience, empathy, and cultural understanding, crucial for navigating diverse environments and building bridges of understanding in an ever-changing world.”

Jeanette Koh, Executive Director of Educational Services, Walnut Valley Unified School District
“SEL is important because it creates spaces for youth and adults to be seen, heard, acknowledged, and validated in their experiences and identities. It’s also a process for youth and adults to build long-lasting relationships, which can serve as protective factors that increase resilience and promote healing and well-being.”

Christobelle (Belle) Tan, Project Specialist, Whole Child and Community Design, San Diego County Office of Education

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Thank you very much for this important quotes about SEL. My name is MUNYEMANA Desire; Social Emotional Learning Specialist and Program Coordinator in Youth First Rwanda Program. This SEL concept has been found as lost cornerstone in building Character of our young adolescents for decades. Let’s make it a priority to improve the wellbeing of our future adults.

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