Embracing Social-Emotional Learning: Kena Perry’s Vision for Well-Rounded Education

In an enlightening presentation, Kena Perry, a seasoned educator with an illustrious 24-year teaching journey, offered a comprehensive insight into the world of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and its crucial importance in the modern education landscape. With credentials that span from Health Physical Education and Recreation to Kinesiology and Special Education, Perry’s rich background served as a backdrop for an engaging exploration of SEL strategies and restorative practices.

The core of Perry’s talk centered around the need to empower students by nurturing their social and emotional well-being. She passionately emphasized that SEL isn’t just about addressing classroom behavior or academic success but is deeply intertwined with how students perceive themselves, their relationships, and their environment.

Drawing from her own transformative experience attending the “Building Stronger Brains” conference in 2018, Perry underscored the profound impact of trauma on a child’s developing brain. This eye-opening conference wasn’t just a learning opportunity for Perry but became a turning point for the Shelby County School District. Armed with newfound knowledge about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their implications, Perry, alongside her colleagues, championed an initiative that trained hundreds of educators on trauma-informed strategies. The result was the implementation of over 200 trauma-informed schools within the district, a monumental achievement that attested to Perry’s commitment to holistic education.

Another pivotal aspect of Perry’s presentation was the focus on educators’ well-being. As she rightly pointed out, a teacher’s well-being directly impacts their ability to nurture and support students. Through her comprehensive approach, participants were guided on how to prioritize self-care to not only enhance their teaching capabilities but also to avoid the prevalent issue of teacher burnout.

With her current role as an Instructional Facilitator in The Social Emotional Learning Department of Student Equity Enrollment and Discipline Department, Perry’s commitment to this cause shone brightly. She delved into practical sessions that detailed the significance of creating safe spaces for students, understanding and mitigating ACEs, and ensuring adult self-care.

But Kena Perry isn’t just about theories and classroom strategies. Her presentation was peppered with personal anecdotes and insights, giving attendees a glimpse into the person behind the educator. Living in Memphis, Tennessee, with her family, Perry’s dedication extends beyond the four walls of a classroom. Her involvement with the Special Olympics of Memphis, where she volunteers alongside her family, is a testament to her belief in holistic development and community engagement.

In concluding her talk, Perry left attendees with more than just strategies and knowledge. She instilled a renewed sense of purpose, emphasizing that education is as much about the heart as it is about the mind.

Kena Perry’s presentation wasn’t merely an exploration of SEL and restorative practices. It was a call to action for educators worldwide to embrace a more empathetic, holistic approach to teaching, ensuring that every student receives not just academic guidance but also emotional and social support.