Developing Socio-Emotional Skills in a Diverse School Environment

Home/Developing Socio-Emotional Skills in a Diverse School Environment

Summit : Baltimore, MD

School : Norwood Elementary

District : Baltimore County Public Schools

State : Maryland

Level : K-12

Team Lead : Clare Kruft

Topics: School Climate, Teacher Leadership Positions/Roles, Whole Child

Clare Kruft’s team from Norwood Elementary School in Dundalk, MD is focused on developing their students’ capacities for social problem-solving, empathy, and self-reflection in the school setting. They believe that mastery of these key socio-emotional skills is essential for students to do their best learning and reach their full potential as contributing members of society. This team is working to develop a concrete, comprehensive approach to an educational curriculum centered around these skills.

Problem and Solution

With a diverse population of students at their school, including 70 percent of students receiving free-and-reduced lunch, 20 percent learning English as a second language, and with students from more than 16 countries, the Norwood Elementary School team recognized a need to teach their young students how to successfully interact with peers from a variety of backgrounds.

Clare’s team came out of the Teach to Lead Summit with a plan to deepen their existing approach to relationship-building among students and teachers by introducing writing as a reflective practice in their justice circles, and by encouraging the use of restorative practices among educators, parents, and caregivers. Clare notes, “It is our hope that we can increasingly showcase for other schools and communities the processes that help students constructively problem-solve when faced with conflicts, develop genuine empathy for others, and internalize a moral compass to guide their future behavior.”


Since Clare’s team returned from the summit, they have received many accolades for their work. They were recently recognized as a National School of Character (a specific outcome targeted in their Teach to Lead logic model), have had visits from influential leaders within the school district, community, and from higher education partners, and have been selected to become a Learning Center–a professional development school that partners with universities to engage in research on effective practices for educators.

Norwood ES National School of Character from Baltimore County Public Schools on Vimeo.

Teacher Leadership Tips

Clare and her team believe that teacher leadership is synonymous with advocacy and influence, and that teacher leaders are consistently advocating and making important decisions on behalf of students. Reflecting on her time at the Teach to Lead Summit, Clare noted, “We have learned that there are many teachers willing to collaborate, innovate, commit to intense work, and to lead when given the opportunity to make schools better for children.”

Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Clare Kruft at