Social and emotional learning critical to elementary education

Kozyra smiles as she watches a speech during The Big Event.

Social and emotional learning

Morgan Kozyra ’18, MAT ’19 is an active member of #BobcatNation, developing a variety of social and emotional learning techniques through experiential and research-based learning. Here, she participates in The Big Event, a day of service throughout the community.

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organ Kozyra ’18, MAT ’19 is prepared to help elementary school students build strong foundations for success.

The psychology major has wanted to be a teacher as long as she could remember — and still smiles when she thinks about lining her stuffed animals up as a little girl to simulate a classroom environment.

The purposefully designed curriculum she is currently completing at Quinnipiac is preparing her to not just help students excel academically — but in life, as well.

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“Teachers today are so burdened with having to teach curriculum solely focused on standardized testing, but I believe it should be more focused on social and emotional learning, particularly in the world in which we live today,” said Kozyra, a New Hampshire native. “Students need to understand how to manage their emotions, accept who they are and build strong relationships with each other.”

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Through a combination of research and experiential learning, such as a psychology elective course on compassionate training and hands-on experiences working with elementary students throughout Connecticut, she has been able to better understand the value of positivity.

“I now see what I want in my future classrooms — what works and what doesn’t work with students — and better understand how social and emotional learning are tied directly to behavior and academics as well as the relationship between a teacher and student,” Kozyra said. “I feel better prepared to help the individual students prepare for success.”

Taylor Chelo ’17, MAT ’18 had a unique perspective of Kozyra’s efforts and understanding as her peer catalyst last year.

Kozyra dances in a orange tu-tu.

Something to celebrate

Morgan Kozyra '18, MAT '19 is preparing for a career in elementary education by participating in a variety of educational and community-focused events and opportunities, including QTHON, a day-long dance party that raised more than $274,000 this semester.

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“It is one thing to promote social and emotional learning, but it is another to truly embody every aspect of it and model it in everyday life,” she said. “Morgan embodies it whole-heartedly. Whether it is through creating reflective, SEL-focused activities for elementary students, or dancing her heart out for a cure for cancer at our university’s QTHON, Morgan always chooses love.”

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A poster explaining the compassionate project.

Experiential learning

One of the techniques that Morgan Kozyra ’18, MAT ’19 utilizes with elementary school students is labeling a bucket at the front of a classroom the “compassion bucket,” and dropping a pom pom into it each time a student is compassionate. Once the bucket is full, the class earns a prize.

Chelo was so moved by Kozyra’s initiatives that she presented about her work at Quinnipiac at the Vancouver International Conference for the Teaching of Psychology last year.

“She was able to truly make her passion for choosing love visible through all she showcased,” Chelo said. “She is truly a paragon of compassion for her young students and ourselves to emulate.”

Professor Thomas Pruzinsky agreed.

“Morgan embodies a truly exceptional combination of character traits and strengths,” he said. “She has a big mind and a big heart. She cares deeply about the well-being of her students — and is willing to work exceptionally hard to be of service to them. She personifies compassion in action.”