Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is defined as, “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”. Companies such as Empowering Education fully embrace this process and we recently had the chance to speak with Noah Teitelbaum and were able to learn more about his company and what all they have to offer.
Your company, Empowering Education, does wonders in the education system. Can you share with us the pillars of your business?
Our mission is to empower learning through social and emotional education. To do that, we provide a bilingual curriculum to K-8 teachers, schools, and districts on social and emotional skills. Our lessons include identifying and managing feelings, apologizing, or overcoming bias and mindfulness. Teachers are swamped (especially now with the pandemic) and so we’ve worked hard to make our lessons fun and easy to use. Even the most brilliant lesson plan won’t have any impact if it sits on the shelf unused, so we focus on making our program accessible and affordable.
Congratulations on publishing your first children’s story! Let’s chat about how you fell into this opportunity. What did the process look like?
Last year I wrote a series of children’s stories for the youngest grade band of our program. Young children learn so much more through stories than through explicit instruction. My children go to the Denver Waldorf School where they incorporate a lot of storytelling. After we added the stories to the program, teachers told us they loved reading them to their students and encouraged us to publish them. We did and added more illustrations – the kids love finding the hidden animals in the drawings! We see the book as both a way to fulfill our mission in a smaller way with parents and teachers, but also as a way to get out the word about our program. By the way, the book is now in English and in Spanish!
I can imagine there are a lot of tips and tricks when creating a children’s book. What are some things you learned in the process of writing the story?
Hire a cruel editor! Just kidding – sort of. We worked with two great editors, which was necessary to get the stories down to an ideal word count – or at least close! The first editor ended up helping me brainstorm some stories as well and even wrote some herself. Then I found it easier to use a second editor who was not attached to the stories and could cut away the extraneous words (for example, this parenthetical phrase!). I also learned a lot about the world of publishing. Publishers now expect authors to arrive with marketing plans, email lists, etc. It wasn’t hard to decide that self-publishing was a better route given our goals.
What is next for you and Empowering Education?
Like everyone else, we’re working hard to adapt to the pandemic. We’re making videos of each of our lessons for teachers that can be sent during distance learning. Before COVID-19, we avoided creating videos as we think there’s more value delivering lessons about feelings in person. One of the goals of the program is to build relationships in the classroom – that’s something best done through live interaction. However, the times and teachers’ needs have changed quickly! The helpful thing for us to do now is to hand over some plug-n-play videos. with on-demand trauma-informed training. It’s been eye-opening for me to learn how many people are impacted by trauma and I see that learning about that can improve teaching and many other ways we interact. COVID-19 has been traumatic for so many people.
On a lighter note, we’re also putting the finishing touches on a Munchy and Jumpy coloring book!
As a longtime member of Shift Workspaces, tell us what makes you want to continue to grow here?
I appreciate how attractive the space is. When I ran a test prep company, we put a premium on the look and feel of the classroom spaces – it affects mood, learning, etc. I also like that I can bring business guests here and know they will be impressed.