Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Minor

Second Advisor

Dr. Harrington Gibson

Third Advisor

Dr. Geri A. Chester



Today’s students are facing an overwhelming number of obstacles that hinder their emotional, social, and academic growth. As a principal, I recognized this growing burden my students were carrying. Such hindrances as a rise in gun violence, continued socioeconomic disadvantages, and countless other more personal obstacles and their effects on students were evident inside the school setting. Many of our students were traumatized by these life changing circumstances and then left clueless as to how to handle them or the challenges life may bring next. The adults in our school and many of the families did not have the skills to help or support students in this difficult journey. We were equipped to handle the academic portion, but we desired to help with social and emotional skills as well. We wanted to support the whole child development. This encounter led me down a road of questioning and discovery regarding how we as educators can equip staff to teach students the social and emotional skills they need to navigate the lifelong obstacles they may experience.

My experience as a principal and my desire to help the whole child develop led me to two primary research questions: How do schools implement an SEL-centered lens when preparing students for social and academic life? How do we address the SEL needs of students who may be entrenched in or be the product of high poverty/high crime areas as well as those who just may need help handling life’s transitions? My journey of discovery led me to research D2SEL School, a small, private, suburban school and their implementation of SEL. I found D2SEL staff desired to support students socially, but SEL was not an administrative or schoolwide focus and little to no training was provided on SEL. There was a need for team building and collaboration among D2SEL staff to improve staff relations and support SEL implementation. My recommendation was the establishment of an SEL focus at D2SEL that includes SEL teams, team leaders, data collection, and ongoing professional and progress monitoring.

In order for students to be healthy emotionally and socially, educators must consider all factors needed to support the whole child in their development and growth. It is my hope that the journey of this dissertation and the interaction with D2SEL and the research will help clarify the need for social and emotional skills to support our students