At Chinook Elementary School, first- and second-grade teacher Kris Hinrichsen educates his students on more than just academics. From self-control to conflict resolution, social and emotional learning, or SEL, is also part of the lesson plan.

By working on these skills, Hinrichsen said the students are able to build a “community of learners” that care about each other.

This community building does not end in the classroom though. Hinrichsen goes out of his way to get to know his students outside of school. He frequently attends their sporting events, dance recitals and family milestones like baptisms.

"Because it's really important to the kids. Me showing interest in them just pays 100 million times back as far as their involvement here and their engagement in our classroom,” explained Henrichsen.

Making those connections has been the secret to his success.

“The time that I spend with the kids and building those relationships is absolutely critical for the learning that happens,” said Hinrichsen. “We can set really high standards and we can do real rigorous kinds of learning, but, that relationship is how we motivate those kids to get there.”

Hinrichsen is on the Anchorage School District's steering committee for SEL.

He is also one of just six teachers in the country to sit on the National Commission for Social, Emotional and Academic Learning, led by the Aspen Institute. Hinrichsen said the group was created to advocate that every student in every state be taught social skills as part of their public education.

Hinrichsen is now in his sixth year teaching at Chinook Elementary School. He spent the two years prior at Russian Jack Elementary School.

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