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Tagged as

social-emotional learning

Audio: Building School Culture by Leading with HEART

Village Oaks Elementary School

Novi, Michigan

Alexander Ofili Principal

Building School Culture by Leading with HEART. One of the most challenging tasks for any new principal is creating school culture, particularly when a strong culture already exists. This podcast walks you through the process Principal Alexander Ofili used at Village Oaks Elementary School in Novi, MI, to do just that. Principal Ofili explains, “it dawned on me that I wanted to respect what had already been established, but at the same time, I wanted to clarify what we see as important values.”

With a mix of veteran and new teaching staff and a collaborative spirit, they harnessed the most important principles that represented the school’s culture using the acronym, HEART. He explains in the podcast, “we believe that leading with HEART…creates an environment where kids are going to do their absolute best.” To listen to the full podcast, scroll down. You can download the transcript here.

To see how students at Village Oaks lead with HEART, check out the school’s video on their website


Contact Information
Village Oaks Elementary School
Dr. Alexander Ofili, Principal at time of Nomination
23333 Willowbrook Drive
Novi, MI, 48375-3654
(248) 449-1302
Student Demographics 2018  
Number of students PreK-6 498
Students eligible for subsidized meals 15%
Students receiving special ed services 6%
ELL 21%
African American students 12%
White students 39%
Hispanic or Latino students 5%
Asian 40%
Two or more races 4%
Student mobility rate 11%


Teachers Mentor Students through High School

Central Academy of Technology and Arts

Central Academy of Technology and Arts (Monroe, NC). Central Academy of Technology and Arts strives to develop students emotionally and socially. As a school we develop our students through intensive involvement in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, advisory periods, and Culture of Respect, our character development program. Our Advisory program, a school-based initiative, engages teachers in mentoring a group of students from across the academies and staying involved with those students throughout their high school careers. An Advisory committee of experienced teachers and counselors designs activities that promote ideals consistent with our school mission: decision-making, personal achievement (academic and community involvement), problem solving, study skills, communicating with peers and adults, resume writing, and effective citizenship through character development. Activities are differentiated based on grade level and all teachers participate in brainstorming ideas for the year at staff meetings. The Advisory committee focuses these ideas to create monthly advisory activities that coincide with progress reports and report cards. Two to three times per year students meet in Academy-based advisories where they work with students at different grade levels, learn how their academy impacts other areas of study, and explore how their everyday learning leads to their academy’s overall learning goals.

Yoga and Other Calming Tactics

Miles Elementary School

Miles Elementary School (Miles, TX). One school-wide strategy is the implementation of morning yoga. Students are led through a pose daily; each has a purpose (to develop self-awareness, slow down, manage emotions, etc.). Research shows that anxious or stressed children find it impossible to learn. Daily yoga helps create a calm child who is ready to learn. Another non-traditional approach to meeting the needs of the Miles students is the Motor Lab. This designated space is equipped with a mini-trampoline, balance beam, rope, and other equipment. Each station addresses a specific behavior or sensory need. Hyperactive students are frequently sent to the lab to prepare their minds and body for the day.

A House System

Hillside Academy For Excellence School

Hillside Academy For Excellence School (Garland, TX). While Hillside is one Eagle family, the family is divided into four “houses.” All students and staff/faculty are members of a specific house. Individuals receive house points for academic performance, acts of responsibility, acts of kindness, and volunteerism. Houses earn parties based of the number of points earned, which builds motivation to achieve more. Within their houses, students learn to function in and to support a group of all ages, academic abilities, cultural backgrounds, and socio-economic levels. Examples of other meaningful experiences at Hillside are the trips that grade levels take. Fifth graders take an annual trip to camp where they are introduced to hands-on outdoor education the moment they step off the bus. The students work all week on outdoor activities, academics, and end the week with a bonfire and group skits. In addition to promoting academic goals in all subject areas, the trip promotes social and emotional growth through team building activities as well as through the groups to which students are assigned. Fourth graders take a trip to Austin and visit the state capitol and museums—another immersive learning experience. Fourth graders also learn social and emotional skills needed to function within a group.

A Proactive Prevention Framework

Lucy Franklin Elementary School

Lucy Franklin Elementary School (Blue Springs, MO). LFE staff fully appreciate that the quality and character of school life is based on patterns of stakeholders’ experiences and reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures. Specific topics have been addressed to affect LFE climate and culture, including health, wellness, and personal safety (e.g., Olweus bully prevention program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education); governance (e.g., shared decision making); relationship building (e.g., Chat N’ Chew); diversity (e.g., Ruby Payne training); behavior management (e.g., Blue Springs Best, monthly classroom recognition, tangible incentives); interventions/enrichment (e.g., RtI, E/LA and math tutoring; extra reading, writing, and computer time); work showcases (e.g., PTA K-5 music performances, PTA Reflections contest, Art and Writing Fairs); and reinforcement (e.g., notes, phone calls, and emails home).

LFE students are challenged to grow academically and are accountable for setting, monitoring, and reporting achievement. Interpersonal and inter-group relations are fostered, and social and emotional skills are taught via a proactive, prevention framework that promotes pro-social development, de-escalation, and problem avoidance using self-regulating and higher-tiered intervention strategies that seek to meet student needs prior to displays of inappropriate behaviors. Social and emotional learning helps students develop fundamental life skills, including recognizing and managing emotions; developing caring and concern for others; establishing positive relationships; making responsible decisions; and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. Such skills help prevent negative behaviors and the resulting disciplinary consequences.

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