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SEL for English Learners: Part 3 (A SSW Perspective)

SEL for English Learners:  Part 3 (A SSW Perspective)

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Introduction:  The School Social Worker Perspective on Providing SEL for English Learners

By being in this field, I have heard countless stories where families overcome adversity and build resiliency.   In the process, I have also met genuine educators who advocate for their students’ rights and meet students where they are at emotionally, academically, and behaviorally.  These passionate educators have shaped me to continue my efforts of  empowering English Learners at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Additionally, my Honduran roots have played a significant role on being culturally sensitive and receptive to the needs of students.  My understanding of having a strength based perspective did not only come from books because I had witnessed it myself while observing my mother working 3 jobs a week while raising her daughter in a new country.  My mother’s tenacity is admirable and she is a living example to the dreams that many parents have when they bring their children to the United States of America.

Community Resource Fair

While I was a school social worker at Addison District 4, the pupil personnel staff collaborated to do a community resource fair.  Agencies throughout the Chicagoland area were contacted and invited to attend the fair.  In addition to this, police officers, firemen, and paramedics were invited to attend to take pictures with students and families.  Local businesses were invited to the event to give children haircuts or provide entertainment.  Most importantly, the community members learned about available resources in their area (e.g., food pantries, clothes closets, monetary assistance from non-for profit agencies, and mental health supports).  Many of the resources and supports were provided in different languages (e.g., Spanish and Polish).  Looking back on this event, it was a positive experience for students and parents because they felt more connected to their school and their community.  This fair naturally created a culture where parents felt included and were eager to participate in future events.


School districts like Mannheim District 83 have created a committee, called the Bilingual Parent Advisory Council.  In this committee parents, teachers, and administrators work together to ensure that families are being represented within the community.   When school districts are being inclusive, then it can change the culture of the school and ensure that all learners are being represented.  Additionally, research demonstrates that students who are taught in an environment where inclusivity is the focus then they have the opportunity to learn communication skills, functional skills, and social skills.  Mannheim District 83 understands the importance of being bilterate and bicultural as this enhances their ability to further develop their cognitive skills and long-term success.  Research demonstrates that those who are bilingual are more likely to have more opportunities to find jobs.

Educational Presentations

While I was an intern at Willowbrook High School, I collaborated with a guidance counselor and we did a presentation in Spanish for parents.  The presentation focused on teaching parents why the Latino population of adolescents is more like to experience depression and how they can support their teens.  Doing presentations to families in the community are always helpful because it initiates a discussion about mental health.  The more informed parents are regarding risk factors then they more likely to overcome these barriers.  The presentations allowed parents to to share their concerns and to ask valid questions about their children.  Parents were grateful that these supports were available to them and they openly shared that they would attend and participate in future presentations.

Social and Emotional Groups

As a school social worker, I have conducted social and emotional groups that focus on empowering children and adolescents who have immigrated to the Unites States.  The goal of these groups is to ensure that these students do not feel alone and to assist them to develop a positive rapport with adults in their schools.  Also, I share with them my own personal stories.  A lot of times it normalizes some of their experiences and feelings as they have left behind their family, friends, and memories too.  In some instances I have noticed that students experience grief because they feel like they lost their “roots.”  It is important to meet students where they are at emotionally and allow them to grieve (slide 12); at the same time, though, it is crucial to empower them as they have the potential of becoming bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate. The journey of an English Learner is tough, but when the correct supports are in place, then they have a higher possibility of meeting and exceeding the expectations.


Students who perceive that they are in nurturing environments are more likely to feel connected and to do well behaviorally and academically. As we were writing these blogs, we felt compelled to share our stories to ensure that we are continuously providing supports for all students.  Nicholas and I hope that these resources are helpful to school districts and professionals in the field, and we encourage you to keep the conversation going on SSW.Net and by joining us over at our SSWNetwork site by clicking here. 

About The Author

Marjorie Colindres

I am a Bilingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working within school settings since 2012 with K-12 grade students in the Chicagoland area. Additionally, I work in a private practice setting with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and seniors. I also work part-time as an adjunct instructor at Loyola University Chicago and I teach School Social Work Practice and Policy. This year, 2019, I have assisted in coordinating the IASSW conference for professionals in the field of school social work. My Bachelor's degrees are in Spanish Literature and Psychology from Loyola University Chicago, Master’s degree in Social Work with a School Social Work Type 73 Professional Educator License from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Type 75 Professional Educator License with a General School Administrator Endorsement from Lewis University. As a school social worker, I personally enjoy being able to develop a positive relationship and empower my students to overcome challenging situations by identifying their strengths. My therapeutic style depends on the need of students as I use an eclectic approach (e.g., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Task-Centered Practice, and Play Therapy).

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