R. Keeth Matheny Receives National Dropout Prevention Network’s Annual Crystal Star Award

Each year, the National Dropout Prevention Network (NDPN) honors one individual with their Crystal Star of Excellence Award for outstanding work in professional development and instruction in helping at-risk students find new and creative ways to solve problems, achieve success, and become lifelong learners. At their 2015 Annual Conference, the NDPN honored R. Keeth Matheny with this coveted award for designing a freshman seminar course that has had significant impact on student discipline and dropout rates at his school and for training educators nationwide to replicate this freshman seminar model in their schools. Mr. Matheny’s freshman seminar, also known as “MAPS” (Methods in Academic and Personal Success), began at Austin High School (Austin, TX) in 2011. Mr. Matheny recognized the dire need for intervention at the ninth grade level and carefully designed a social, emotional and academic skill-building course for incoming freshmen. Within four years, his MAPS course helped curb student discipline referrals at Austin High by 71% and freshman failure rates by 41%; and was being replicated through the School-Connect curriculum in high schools across Austin and the United States.

In addition to being a full-time teacher, Mr. Matheny leads professional development sessions all over the country and, whenever possible, includes his current and alumni MAPS students in the PD sessions. Mr. Matheny has been a speaker at The National Dropout Prevention Conference, The National Forum on Character Education, High Schools that Work, Florida Institute on Instructional Strategies and Student Engagement, and The National Forum for At Risk Youth. He was also part of a Google Education on Air panel with more than 10,000 participants and a U.S. Capitol Hill Briefing on Social and Emotional Learning.

Mr. Matheny was recently featured in the National Dropout Prevention Network's Solutions Webcast program. CLICK to see this inspiring and thought-provoking webinar.

R. Keeth Matheny accepting the NDPN’s Crystal Star Award.
Mr. Matheny pictured with his students at the National Dropout Prevention Network’s Award Ceremony.

School-Connect Co-author R. Keeth Matheny Presents at U.S. Capitol Hill Briefing

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s the key message delivered by high school teacher and School-Connect co-author R. Keeth Matheny of Austin, TX, at a U.S. Capitol Hill briefing in Washington, DC. The briefing was held by Committee for Children and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) on the importance of effective social and emotional learning (SEL) at every stage of education, from early learning through college and career prep. Click on the video box in the side bar to watch Keeth’s presentation and commentary from Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics.

R. Keeth Matheny, high school teacher and School-Connect Co-author, presents at U.S. Capitol Hill Briefing on social and emotional learning.

Kathy Beland Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Washington, D.C. Kathy Beland, lead author of School-Connect: Optimizing the High School Experience and original author of the award-winning Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum, received the nationally recognized Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education (a.k.a. “The Sandy Award”) from the Character Education Partnership (CEP) at its 2009 National Forum.

Beland’s work in the field of prevention education spans Emmy Award-winning educational videos on the prevention of child abuse and youth violence to K-12 curricula on social emotional learning. Second Step, which teaches skills in empathy, impulse control, and anger management, is used in over 25,000 classrooms in the United States, Canada, and 70 other countries. Second Step was recognized with an “Exemplary” award from the U.S. Department of Education, surpassing all others in its class, and as a Model Program by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

Beland, along with co-author Julea Douglass, founded School-Connect in 2003. The School-Connect curriculum, designed to ease students’ transition to high school and create a supportive learning environment, is implemented in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and several other countries.

Described by CEP Executive Director Joseph Mazzola as “one of the true unsung heroes of character education,” Beland lead the early development of CEP’s National Schools of Character recognition program and was lead writer on its Eleven Principles Sourcebook: How to Achieve Quality Character Education in K-12 Schools.

“This award is such a well-deserved recognition for the important work Kathy has been doing for more than 20 years,” said Joan Cole Duffell, executive director of Committee for Children, which distributes and continues to develop the Second Step program. “Kathy’s work as a teacher, curriculum developer, writer, and lecturer has always focused on helping young people build the skills to be better students, classmates, family members, and citizens of the world.”

Kathy's family-Marc, Peter, and Eva Kokopeli-help celebrate her receipt of the Sandy Award.
Kathy Beland accepts the Sanford N. McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education, presented by Joseph Mazzola, CEO Character Education Partnership.

School-Connect in Action

Washoe CSD in Reno Nevada has been using School-Connect throughout their high schools since 2015. Teacher Stephan Molder and District SEL Director Trish Shaffer share their lessons learned and student breakthroughs after making School-Connect and SEL a central part of their district and high school education system.

Teacher Stephan Molder and District SEL Director Trish Shaffer share their lessons learned and student breakthroughs.

School-Connect in Collaborating Districts Initiative

The new third edition of School-Connect is being implemented as part of the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) in Austin Independent School District (AISD) in Austin, TX, Washoe County School District in Reno, NV, and Sacramento City Unified School District in Sacramento, CA. The CDI is sponsored by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) with funding from the NoVo Foundation, and is designed to document the programs and processes that lead to high quality social-emotional learning (SEL) in preschool through grade 12. Stay tuned for more news on implementation in these and other CDI districts.

CLICK for more information about CASEL's Collaborating Districts Initiative


Relating to Romeo: Connecting Students and Curricula by Kathy Beland

NASSP's Principal Leadership magazine highlights a ninth grade English class that received School-Connect lessons integrated with literature studies.

"What situations could stress out Romeo and Juliet?" asks 9th-grade English teacher Amy Corvino. Hands shoot up, and the students are off and running.

"Juliet's fighting with her parents."

"Her father says he'll disown her if she doesn't marry Paris."

"Their families are enemies."

"They get married."

"Romeo is being banished."

"Juliet's nurse has betrayed her."

"They're living in chaos."

"Death of a family member-her cousin Tybalt."

"Mercutio dies; he was Romeo's best friend."

Fighting with one's parents, marriage, the deaths of a family member and a friend-all are items that score high points on the Recent Life Changes Questionnaire for Teens, a survey of stress factors (Miller &Rahe, 1997) recently adapted for use with adolescents (Beland& Douglass, 2006). The students had completed the questionnaire for themselves the previous day, learning how cumulative stress can affect their physical and emotional health as well as their judgment. Now they are applying the questionnaire to the protagonists of one of Shakespeare's seminal works, and it is clear that on some level, the students can relate to Romeo's and Juliet's lives.

CLICK to read more.

Boosting Social and Emotional Competence By Kathy Beland

ASCD's Educational Leadership Magazine shares how School-Connect prepares high school students for graduation and the workforce.

Alma, a sophomore at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, is sitting quietly in the lunchroom, observing the social scene that swirls around her. This may seem like standard practice for a 16-year-old, but Alma is actually fulfilling an assignment for health class. Her charge is to identify facial expressions and study behavior in a public setting. Later, she will discuss with her classmates what she has learned about empathizing with multiple perspectives. Like naturalists who painstakingly observe animals in their habitats, Alma and her classmates are becoming trained observers of human nature.

Back in class, Alma expresses surprise at what she hadn't noticed before, such as the number of students who eat alone and how big and overwhelming the school might seem to new students. Other students agree. They often focus on their own concerns; looking outside themselves has opened their eyes to the experiences of others and the challenges of attending a magnet school that draws students from across the county.

CLICK to read more.

Other Stories of School-Connect and/or Its Authors in the News

School-Connect Co-Author and Teacher, Keeth Matheny with fellow School-Connect teacher. Picture from Head in the Sand Blog.