Start With the Heart: Igniting Hope in Schools Through Social and Emotional Learning


Michelle L. Trujillo

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    What Your Colleagues Are Saying . . .

    “I have been involved in the implementation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools for many years. What I loved about this book is that it takes the theory and research behind SEL and puts heart and relevance behind it. It not only gives practical advice and suggestions, but also serves as a kind and gentle way for the readers to reflect on their own practice and work to grow their own social and emotional skills. I have already recommended it to classroom teachers and am envisioning how I will use it for the next professional development activity I will be facilitating, as this book can be relevant to classroom teachers, administrators, and anyone in a school setting who works with kids. The title is Start With the Heart and I feel like the heart of the author, her love for students, and her passion for this work comes through on every page.”

    Victoria Blakeney, Director of Student Support
    Renton School District, WA

    “Educators have known that building students’ social emotional skills (SES) is critical to their future success. It’s time for schools to embrace and understand the significance of being deliberate in incorporating SES skills in their classrooms and schools. Hats off to Michelle L. Trujillo for writing a book that walks teachers and schools through a process that shows how it can be successfully done.”

    Kim Campbell, Middle School Teacher and Dean of Students
    Hopkins West Junior High, Minnetonka, MN

    Start With the Heart is a must-read for teachers seeking research-based practices that expand the social, emotional, and academic development of their students.”

    Steve Canavero, PhD, Superintendent of Public Instruction
    Nevada Department of Education

    “Michelle L. Trujillo skillfully blends research, evidence, anecdotes, and opportunities for readers’ personal reflections. She has produced an excellent resource that appeals to the intellectual mind, common sense, and the reader’s heart. This fantastic book separates itself from others by not only backing up claims with evidence and research, but also facilitating the reader in arriving at those very same conclusions through logic, common sense, and personal reflection into his or her own life experience with social and emotional learning. It has been said that you must touch the heart before you can teach the mind. This book does both.”

    Gregg Iha, District Resource Teacher
    Hawaii Department of Education

    “This is a powerful and moving resource and will inspire every educator who wants to make a difference!”

    Eric Jensen, Author and Educational Consultant
    Jensen Learning

    “Chock-full of validating and affirming statements for best practice when supporting students who have experienced trauma, this book presents great probing questions to use with staff. Michelle L. Trujillo provides powerful questions that support leaders in framing meaningful and reflective conversations. After reading Chapter 2, I used some of those questions the next week. I needed this read after a busy start to the school year. Our students need us to be our best selves!

    As a fellow continuation high school principal, I read this book and felt heard and seen. The work, the reminders, and belief systems outlined by Michelle inspire me to keep learning, improving, and implementing social and emotional learning for students and staff.”

    Amy Lloyd, Principal
    Adelante Continuation High School, CA

    “Through touching anecdotes and practical activities, Trujillo’s strengths-based approach conveys feasible strategies for improving schools: start with positive regard, teach the social-emotional skills we want to see, and model these skills for students and colleagues.”

    Kent McIntosh, Professor, University of Oregon

    “We are finally beginning to recognize that schools cannot focus on academics alone. The success of children is tied to their social and emotional development. This important book describes what schools can do to address the needs of the whole child. For educators and others who seek to ensure that schools are able to respond to the needs of our children, this book is an invaluable resource.”

    Pedro A. Noguera, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Education
    UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

    “This is a very important book. It is well written, insightful, practical, and consistent with research on the science of learning and development. Start With the Heart strategically incorporates the voices of students and provides readers with opportunities to reflect so that they can embed social emotional learning in their practices and ‘way of being.’ Learning and teaching is hard—particularly when students face many challenges. However, students and teachers can succeed; this book illustrates how we can create safe, engaging, equitable learning opportunities for all students.”

    David Osher, Vice President and Institute Fellow
    American Institutes for Research

    “Michelle L. Trujillo brings a scientifically-based framework to this work, as well as a strong social and emotional component, both of which are so important to our schools. Michelle is able to bridge the gap so all stakeholders understand the impact that creating a social and emotional learning environment has on academic achievement.”

    Dr. Greta Peay, Chief Officer, Instructional Services
    Clark County School District, NV

    “Michelle L. Trujillo takes you on a journey with Social and Emotional Learning to make a difference: not like on a train ride that keeps you on track, but more like an airplane flight that takes you to places you may never have been before. Her Reflection Pages, Suggestions From Students, and Study Questions, peppered with a strong dose of Hope, guide you toward your destination to becoming a better educator. Enjoy the ride!”

    Dr. Stephen Sroka, President of Health Education Consultants and Founder of “The Power of One”

    “Michelle L. Trujillo writes compellingly about leading with heart and intentionality toward a systematic approach to social and emotional learning (SEL). She elevates the critical voices of students and shares concrete strategies to help educators create schools that simultaneously meet the social, emotional, and economic needs of young people and adults.”

    Karen Van Ausdal, Senior Director of Practice The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)


    This book is written for my husband, David


    it is inspired by ALL who are ASPIRE.

    Preface: Ignite Hope Now!

    Education is our calling

    In our students, we believe

    We’re giving everything we’ve got

    Yet still, some don’t achieve

    We see kids living in adversity

    In the light of each tomorrow

    Experiences we can’t imagine

    Such hurt and fear and sorrow

    Academics are important,

    Yes, test scores must be improved

    But kids will find it tough to learn

    If they are hungry, hurting, or abused

    So much falls upon our shoulders

    More placed on our plates each day

    Yet in our hands, our students rest

    We can help them find their way

    As we embark upon our lessons

    Of reading, writing, science, and math

    We can ignite hope for our young people

    If we place character upon their path

    You see,

    We can teach them through our actions,

    To be human above all things

    To serve others with love and integrity

    And feel the joy and hope this brings

    And hope is certainly essential

    In the lives of all our kids

    But it is up to us to ignite it

    To light the flame that lives within

    It starts with understanding

    That their lives are not like ours

    We must meet them where they are today

    Find their strengths, then raise the bar

    It is not up to us to “fix them”

    Or correct what’s tough at home

    But we can teach them to accept themselves

    And help them know they’re not alone

    We can love them and respect them,

    Teach them to act responsibly,

    We can model compassion and acceptance

    And challenge them to think more critically

    It’s not up to us to change them,

    Rather, the environment in which they learn

    Let our classrooms be their safe place,

    To question, explore, discern

    We can truly make a difference

    Starting with the Heart, our fervent vow

    And with SEL as the foundation

    We can ignite HOPE in our schools now!

    About the Author

    Michelle L. Trujillo, MEd, is an author, inspirational speaker, and educational consultant. “Mrs. T,” as she is known to her students and reading audience, makes a tangible, sustainable, and positive difference through her books, keynotes, and training seminars. She shares enthusiasm, experience, and applicable takeaways with her audience, while she imparts a philosophy that ignites hope in schools and the workplace. Named Nevada’s 2017 Innovative Educator of the Year, Michelle has appeared on television (including Oprah) and radio across the nation as a guest expert. Her keynotes and trainings leave audiences enthused, inspired, deeply touched, and wanting more. Feel free to contact Michelle at to schedule her as a speaker or workshop leader.

  • Acknowledgments

    First, to you, the reader: Thank you for investing in this journey with me. It was important to me to write a book that would speak to your heart, while providing you with valuable information and practical strategies. If I accomplished this goal, it was due only to the support and contribution of the following people:

    • Sharalee Jorgensen, godmother, aunt, and editor extraordinaire! This book took shape, only because of you.
    • Judy Williams, my mom, my friend. You made yourself available to read and reread at any given moment. Thanks, to you and Dad, and Jaime, too, for always being there!
    • Rene Townsend, author, former principal, and superintendent. Your “in the trenches” insight was invaluable!
    • Jessica Allan, Lucas Schleicher, Mia Rodriguez, and Tori Mirsadjadi. In my eyes, you are Corwin’s finest editing team. Thank you for your belief in this book from the start! And Amy Marks, you are something special. Thank you!
    • Telsche, Ashlee, Alecia, Eric, Krystal, Nick, McKayla, Charlie, Cisco, Kat, Sarah, Katie, Callie, and Bryan’s mom, Shirley. Your willingness to contribute to and support this project touched my heart and made this book come alive. Thank you.
    • David Trujillo, my husband and best friend, and our children, Corey and Dani. You are the joy of my heart! Thank you all for your belief in me and your constant support, insight, and encouragement. I love you.

    Many of the anecdotes that I shared throughout the book were based on students who have touched my heart and made me a better teacher and leader. Names that I acknowledged here are real, but there are others for whom I changed names or left unnamed to protect their privacy. Finally, as you could tell from reading this book, I believe in love. All glory goes to the original source of Love: to my God, Thank You.

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments
    • Melissa A. Campbell
    • 4th Grade Mathematics Teacher
    • Williams Avenue Elementary School
    • Fort Payne, Alabama
    • Dr. Ursula Harris
    • Educator
    • Jackson Public Schools
    • Jackson, Mississippi
    • Linda Keteyian
    • Teacher
    • Detroit Public Schools
    • Detroit, Michigan
    • Saundra Mouton
    • International Baccalaureate Coordinator
    • Briarmeadow Charter School
    • Houston, Texas
    • Dr. Tanna H. Nicely
    • Executive Principal
    • South Knoxville Elementary
    • Knoxville, Tennessee
    • Ellen S. Perconti
    • Superintendent
    • Mary M. Knight and Grapeview School Districts
    • Elma, Washington
    • Cathy Sosnowski
    • Teacher
    • Central Connecticut State University
    • New Britain, Connecticut


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