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Get To Know Emily Schorr Lesnick, Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator

I see my role as Social Emotional Learning Coordinator to further the work the school is doing to support empathic, responsible, self-aware students.

Lisa Kennedy

Who is a teacher that made a difference in your life and how do you carry that person with you?

In 7th grade, I had an English teacher named Christine Hong. Her passion for teaching middle school made me excited to go to her class. She was intentional, creative, and quirky. She always knew how to perfectly bring in information about herself so we could feel connected to her, and she guided us through merging our academic and social selves. I try to carry that passion to my work as I support students to bring their whole, authentic selves to school.

What brought you to UPrep?

UPrep’s clarity of mission was a big draw. The first time I visited the campus was Social Justice Day. Seeing the entire community so energized, curious, and engaged around social justice and inclusion was very exciting. It’s the kind of community I want to be a part of. I realized this wasn’t just the language on the website; the school is actively trying to enact its values, and I want to be a part of that.

And even though this is a new position at UPrep, it is affirming and exhilarating to join a community that is already doing fantastic SEL work, from their Community Time programming, to educating and training faculty and staff, and more.

Describe your vision for your role.

I see my role as Social Emotional Learning Coordinator to further the work the school is doing to support empathic, responsible, self-aware students. The school has already been doing fantastic planning and programming around SEL, and I get to learn about what is already being done and help integrate that programming in all parts of school life. I get to work on both the macro and the micro to support students’ social and emotional learning. That could mean working with teachers to incorporate reflection and community building around group projects, facilitating in advisories, and working directly with students to help make SEL programming as meaningful and relevant for them as possible.

What led you to this position and vision?

I worked for seven years at Riverdale Country School in the Bronx. There, I was lucky to participate in many facets of school life, and worked with colleagues to address SEL for students in middle and high school. Witnessing students in classes and in the “in between spaces” of hallways, clubs, etc., I got to understand all the components of a student’s life and a desire to support children to bring their full selves to school.

What’s experience from your prior work do you draw on in these new roles?

My background has led me to wear many hats in schools. I have loved all of the ways I have gotten to work alongside students and support institutions working towards justice and inclusion, but the thought of getting to inhabit one role that does all of that work was exciting to me. I have a background in educational theatre and social justice education, and I aim to bring those frameworks and activities to SEL for embodied, reflective, work! I also have worked with students grade 6-12 and love the opportunity to continue to do that, instead of focusing solely on one division.

Where have you seen this work in action?

SEL in action is the goal at all times! It’s when a student says: “I made sure to prioritize sleep this week and I feel great.” I was on the 6th grade retreat earlier this year and a student said to me “I feel cranky, and that’s affecting how I’m talking to my friends. I need a moment to myself!”

How do you see this new position supporting students?

SEL is a charge for our community to see, support, and nourish the whole child as they build resiliency, manage stress, develop empathy, clarify their personal values, and make responsible decisions. A focus on SEL in school life encourages teachers to teach in a way that is both mindful of student’s social and emotional needs and that builds students’ capacities in this realm. And for students, it’s an opportunity for them to better understand their own social and emotional lives and advocate for their wellbeing.

How do you see this new position supporting faculty?

I directly engage with the faculty at division meetings and through coaching colleagues to infuse SEL into their work. Whether it’s offering activities or resources or providing another set of eyes, I am working to support faculty. Also, the school has done amazing work supporting faculty/staff well-being through wellness classes. I want to do some thinking and work on how we support faculty/staff social and emotional health, too.

How does your position fit UPrep’s vision for Next Generation Learning?

SEL is explicitly named in UPrep’s next generation learning vision, and knowing that a broad group of stakeholders approved this strategic plan and focused on emotional regulation and interpersonal interaction bolsters my work with SEL.

How does your work connect to diversity and community work at UPrep?

In my previous school, I was on our school’s Community Engagement Team, which oversaw equity and inclusion work.  I strive to bring a social justice lens to all the work I do. This means seeing SEL as a component of community building, empathy, connecting across difference, all in the process of working towards justice.

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