Westwood Educator Takes on New Role
Dr. Donna Tobin spent the last decade as principal of Westwood’s Martha Jones Elementary School. This year, she is taking on a new role as K-8 SEL Coordinator for the Westwood Public Schools. SEL, or Social, Emotional Learning, has become a focus for many school districts over the last decade.
“One of the reasons why I thought about making this change in my career is that I am really excited about the way this position allows me to really focus on how to support the social and emotional needs of our students,” said Tobin, a lifelong educator.
Prior to working in Westwood, Tobin was a principal in the Hull and Easton Public School Systems, respectively. She received a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Boston College in 2020, after earning her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
“We know how important SEL skills are to students,” explained Tobin. “We’re seeing that many kids have challenges in these areas and need explicit instruction on how to recognize their own values, in particular their own strengths and areas of potential growth. Schools have seen this deficit and both want and need to support students in these areas.”
Like many districts, Westwood follows the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) model, and focuses on five different tenets: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. While the skill sets themselves are not new, Tobin says educators are looking more closely into how they fit into a learning model.[m1]
“These are great life skills,” said Tobin. “They’re skills that students are going to need not only in school, but in employment, in relationships, and with families. We want to be thoughtful on how we teach these to our students.”
The SEL Coordinator position was first added in Westwood in 2019.
“Donna has experience at the classroom level and her years as an administrator really compliment the work she’s doing in this position,” said Emily Parks, Superintendent of the Westwood Public Schools. “That, along with the personal passion she has for SEL, made her a natural choice.”
Tobin’s focus thus far has been researching different SEL curricula to determine which ones are working at other districts and which align with CASEL competencies. In addition, she’s spending time with kids during lunch and recess. Her hope is that students will recognize her as someone who can support them.
“There’s conflict everywhere right now,” said Tobin. “We want kids to be kind, respectful, caring, and empathetic. In addition, we want kids to have a growth mindset so that when they face challenges they have the skills to overcome or even embrace those challenges and feel good about themselves. That’s the main goal I have in this position.”