The Social Emotional Learning Conference

The Social Emotional Learning Conference is an exciting annual event hosted by Metro Nashville Public Schools and Alignment Nashville’s Behavioral Health Team. This year’s conference takes place Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30, 2017, at Cane Ridge High School in Nashville, Tennessee. This will be the seventh installment of the conference, which will feature renowned SEL experts and dozens of unique workshops over the two days that attendees can self-select. An exhibit hall will also be featured, and businesses and organizations that support SEL and mental health will be on hand to share information about their services.



June 29 Keynote: Tim Shriver

The Behavioral Health A-Team is excited to welcome Timothy Shriver as the keynote speaker for the 2017 SEL Conference. Tim is Chairman of Special Olympics and in that capacity, he happily serves together with over four million Special Olympics athletes in 170 countries, all working to promote health, education, and a more unified world through the joy of sports.

Before joining Special Olympics in 1996, Shriver was and remains a leading educator focusing on the social and emotional factors in learning. He was a co-founder of CASEL, and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a non-executive director of WPP plc.

5. Tim Headshot (1)

June 30 Keynote: Erin Beacham

Erin Beacham is the Education Director in the Southeast Region of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL is a civil rights organization that was founded in 1913, with the mission to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure fair treatment and justice for all”. In this position Erin develops, manages and implements the ADL’s education programs including: A World of Difference Institute® the premiere anti-bias trainings for students, counselors, teachers, law enforcement and the community, No Place for Hate® the year-long anti-bullying campaign, as well as Holocaust education. Erin has dual-Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and African American Studies from Guilford College and a Master of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Data from the CDC’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the Tennessee Department of Health’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System revealed that large numbers of Tennessee students are have been exposed to adverse life events. We know from the 1995-97 CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study that experiencing severe and/or chronic trauma triggers the “fight, flight, or freeze” instinct in a child, which can actually damage the brain and makes it physiologically impossible to learn or engage at school — impacting everything from academic success and the number of discipline incidents at school to emotional wellness and physical health into adulthood. Consequently, adults who have experienced adverse events during childhood are more likely to lack a high school diploma or stable employment, to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking or drug use, and even to attempt suicide. These risks to health, wellbeing and safety increase in tandem with the number of adverse events an individual has experienced.

The current prevalence of residents with ACE scores greater than zero across Davidson County is estimated to be between 32.5% and 36.9%.

Childhood adversity is typically defined as physical, verbal and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with mental illness, or who has been incarcerated or is abusing alcohol or other drugs; witnessing a mother being abused; or losing a parent to divorce or separation, per the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACEs Study, but can encompass other traumatic experiences as well. Data has also shown that when students live in poverty, their odds of experiencing trauma and adverse events, as well as their lasting physical and emotional effects, increase.

72% of students in Metro Nashville Public Schools live at or below the poverty line, making this a very critical issue in our district.

But there is hope.

Data has also shown that resilience built through protective factors such as Social Emotional Learning, or SEL, can vastly alter the course of a child’s academic, social, and health outcomes, even after exposure to trauma. SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. A growing body of research clearly demonstrates that support for social and emotional skill development at school, a climate of connectedness in the building, and trauma-informed approaches to teaching and learning are integral to promoting resilience, overall health, and academic success.

The Tactic | Growth | Outcomes & Outputs

In 2011, the Behavioral Health Alignment Team recognized an urgent need to educate teachers and school staff in Social Emotional Learning competencies and practices, in order to create long-term systemic change around positive school climate, stronger support systems for students, improved student health, academic engagement, and overall student success. The A-Team undertook an effort to begin embedding SEL into MNPS and the wider Nashville community by presenting an annual collaborative professional development event called The Social Emotional Learning Conference. The first conference, in July of 2011, brought mental health providers, SEL experts, and other community partners together around a common goal to provide a variety of workshops throughout the day for educators, promoting understanding and awareness of SEL and how it impacts school climate and academic engagement, and also teaching on-the-ground skills that allow teachers to become models of SEL practice for their students.

The 2016 SEL Conference

During the conference, #SELConference trended on twitter! See what conference goers had to say about the event!

Last year’s conference was held over two days – July 14 and 15, 2016 at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch, Tennessee — and was the sixth installment of this event. The first day opened with Mayor Megan Barry presenting the Jesse Register Excellence in SEL Award to MNPS SEL Director Kyla Krengel and the SEL Community Award to Judge Sheila Calloway followed by a panel of experts on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Keynote speaker Dr. Pedro Noguera of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA kicked of the second day of learning with a talk on equity and excellence. An exhibitor hall was featured where 28 businesses and organizations that support SEL and mental health in Nashville and beyond were on hand to share information about their services and provide freebies. Volunteer presenters from inside and outside Tennessee provided nearly 60 unique workshops during six breakout session slots spread across the two days. Topics included

  • exploring ACEs and their effects on school behavior and performance
  • the impact of implicit bias on school discipline
  • how to embed SEL into Project-Based Learning
  • child brain architecture and development
  • engaging parents in SEL skills development
  • creating culturally responsive learning environments,
  • and much, much more.
Highlights from the 2015 conference

The first conference served around 150 people and offered 20 workshops and a small student panel. The conference has grown substantially over the years both in size and in popularity. The A-Team has worked to add in new features each year such as:

  • national keynote speakers with an expertise in SEL,
  • an expanded schedule,
  • panel discussion on ACEs,
  • engagement from local leaders such as former Mayor Karl Dean and current Mayor Megan Barry,
  • presenting of the Excellence in SEL Award and SEL Community Award,
  • workshop presenters from other cities, states, and school districts.

The SEL Conference Through The Years -- 2011-2016


Long-Term Outcomes

Increase Graduation Rates

Increase Children’s Health

Midterm Outcomes

2% increase in MNPS staff reporting and atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in their schools in 2017
GOAL - 79%
Actual: To Be Reported

[Baseline: 77% in 2015]

3 percentage-point increase in MNPS staff reporting their schools as safe to work
GOAL - 96%
ACTUAL: To be reported

[Baseline: 93% in 2015]

Short-Term Outcomes 

At least 220 tweets about the SEL Conference using #selconference
GOAL - 220
ACTUAL - 197

While the team narrowly missed its goal,  there was a 2.6% increase in twitter activity over 2015.

At least 50 new Facebook "likes" of the SEL Conference page by August 2016
GOAL - 50

Facebook “likes” increased 20% since the 2016 event.


at least 25% of conference attendees are attending for the first time
GOAL - 25%
at least 60 workshop submission from ITP process
GOAL - 60

The team received 58 workshop responses – just shy of the goal – which is a 7.5% increase over the 2015 conference.

at least 10% of workshop submissions are from new presenters
GOAL - 10%

A total 36 of presenters presented at the conference for the first time.

at least 30 exhibitors respond to ITP to support the event and reserve a booth
GOAL - 30

The team received 30 responses – a 25% increase over 2015.

at least 750 registrations
GOAL - 750

752 educators, administrators, and community members registered for the conference – an increase of 4.4% over 2015.