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5 Best-in-Class Projects from The Allstate Foundation’s Social and Emotional Learning Innovation Challenge

Meet our winners and get inspired by their boldest and most inventive projects focussing on social and emotional learning.


In a normal school year, teachers play every role from educator, to therapist, to nurse, to friend, and then some. And this year was far from normal! More than ever before, the social and emotional needs of students have been front-and-center, and teachers (as always) stepped up to the challenge.

This past January, our friends at The Allstate Foundation asked teachers to share their boldest and most inventive projects focussing on social and emotional learning. More than 2,000 teachers answered the call!

A team of teacher experts and our partners at The Allstate Foundation helped us to select these five winning projects, based on their innovation and responsiveness to the current educational climate. Winning teachers received $5,000 in DonorsChoose funding for their classroom.

Meet our winners below! Feeling inspired? Create a project to bring one of these ideas to your students.

Congratulations to these five exceptional teachers!

Social-Emotional Learning through Podcasts

Mrs. Lanson | Louisiana | Grades 9–12

Mrs. Lanson requested microphones, audio interfaces, and other equipment so that her students could create a weekly mental health podcast to share with the rest of the school.

“We hope to host meetings where students share their stories, films, music, and creative writing. Our goal is to connect school-aged youth, who may have behavioral health issues, including serious emotional disturbance or serious mental illness, with the help that they deserve.”

Student Run Food Bank to Help With Social Emotional Learning

Mrs. Joanna Chappell | New York | Grades 9–12

Mrs. Joanna Chappell’s students and their families faced serious hardships because of COVID-19, with many families facing food insecurity and students missing out on opportunities for work-study. To give her special needs students another chance at work experience, Mrs. Joanna Chappell requested resources that would enable them to run a food bank.

“Creating a school based worksite can aid my students in feeling a sense of purpose and give them the feeling of giving back to their community. The social emotional learning will come from giving my students a feeling of contributing to their community and helping those in need.”

Seeing Empathy through Different Lenses

Ms. Nguy | California | Grades 3–5

Ms. Nguy wanted to engage her students in SEL through art, so she requested cameras and memory cards for her students with disabilities as a way to connect with their general education peers.

“I want to eliminate bias for my students with disabilities and create opportunities for all students to learn the fundamentals of being kind and caring citizens, who have respect, understanding, and empathy for others and themselves.”

The Diamond Club: A Social-Emotional Support Group

Ms. Flanagan | Illinois | Grades 9-12

From her expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Ms. Flanagan knows how vital social-emotional learning is to student success. She launched The Diamond Club as a way to provide students with SEL opportunities like art therapy, journaling, and more.

“The end goals are to help my students learn the skills/strategies to deal with setbacks, to strengthen their coping mechanisms, learn how to overcome challenges, be resilient, and remain focused on accomplishing their post-secondary goals and aspirations. I want to ensure that they always remember our motto that pressure makes diamonds.”

Zen Zone From School to Home!

Mrs. Drake | Ohio | Grades 3-5

Mrs. Drake’s Ohio elementary schoolers are moving from virtual learning to a hybrid set up! To help students manage that big change, Mrs. Drake is developing a Zen Zone filled with yoga mats, fidget toys, eye masks, and everything else you’d need to find calm.

“These items will allow them to have a zen zone. A place where they are able to recognize and regulate their emotions. It will also help them bridge the gap between home and school during these unprecedented times. These little people are our future and they have to be well rounded individuals and deal with adversity as it comes.”

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