Social Emotional Learning Innovation Fund

In partnership with the NoVo Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, we are thrilled to announce the 2019 teacher and district awardees of the Social and Emotional Learning Innovation Fund!

Since 2016, the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Innovation Fund has celebrated educators who practice innovative ways to support and center students’ social, emotional and academic needs, and who strive to overcome systemic barriers for those farthest from opportunity. Funded projects prioritized student social, emotional and academic outcomes, contained an orientation and analysis of racial, gender and/or social justice, and created restorative approaches to conflict.

Over the last three years, the SEL Innovation Fund has given $4.1 million to teachers and districts who are working tirelessly to create equitable learning environments where students can thrive. Through a series of convenings and other networking opportunities, we also help educators spread those innovative practices across the country.

With more application submissions than ever before, the Innovation Fund has lifted up practices across communities, growing the efforts of one classroom to many and spreading the work of a single school into district-wide initiatives. Over 1,300 teachers and schools systems submitted proposals that awed and inspired us this year. We received applications from all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and a number of U.S. territories, representing rural, urban and suburban communities. After a careful review process, we selected 10% of applicants: 101 teachers and 40 districts.

In addition to geographic diversity, our awardees are utilizing varied methods to explore and teach students’ and adults’ social and emotional learning. One teacher will bridge the historical divide between the school, which has a predominantly Indigenous and Latinx student population, and the surrounding community through student-led art which will celebrate local heroes. One district will train students to lead and facilitate support circles to build relationships and resilience among girls of color. One teacher will use scavenger hunts to grow middle school students’ sense of community and charitable giving in rural Wisconsin. Another district plans to launch an adult and student mentoring program. You can explore these and other award-winning projects using the links below.

A full list of the 2019 teacher and district awardees can be found here.

A link to all 2019 and 2018 teacher and district awardees, with sortable filters for method used, type of school and students served can be found here.

As in previous years, the 2019 SEL Innovation Fund offered up to $5,000 grant awards for teacher-led projects and $25,000 grant awards for district- or charter network-led projects that span multiple schools. The fund supported applicants to create places, environments and practices that value belonging, well-being, tolerance, compassion, listening, non-violence, inclusiveness, working productively together, restoring relationships and repairing harm. Many awardees personalized their projects to address needs in their local communities and student populations. We also sought proposals that specifically supported one or more of the following student populations:

  • Students from Indigenous communities
  • New arrivals (such as refugees) or immigrants
  • English learners
  • LGBTQIA+ students
  • Girls and young women of color
  • Students disproportionately affected by suspensions or the juvenile justice system
  • Students with learning disabilities

We extend our sincerest gratitude to all who applied and offer our congratulations to the awardees. We look forward to seeing these innovative SEL projects in action!

We will open for applications in February 2020 for the Innovation Fund for the 2020-21 school year. This site will be updated with all the details and how to apply. If you have any questions in the meantime, please email

2018 Summary: In our third year, we received over 1,000 applications from more than 45 states. Through a competitive process, 12% of applicants were selected, 90 teachers and 34 districts. Read more about the teacher award-winning projects here. Read more about the district award-winning projects here. You can also view these project descriptions using an interactive search at this site:

2017 Summary: In our second year, we received over 800 applications from more than 40 states. 2017 was the first year we awarded district-level grants. Through a competitive process, 12% of applicants were selected, 67 teachers and 30 districts, with the complete list of selected awardees available here. Some awardees authored blog posts about their work. Read more here.

2016 Summary: In our first year, we received a total of 430 teacher applications from 164 districts in 34 states. In August 2016, Education First announced 25 innovation awards to individual teachers and teams of teachers in 14 states. Find the list of 2016 recipients and descriptions of their projects here.

For more information about our support of SEL, see our SEL Teacher Practice website and publications Social and Emotional Learning: Looking Back, Aiming Forward and Social and Emotional Learning: Why Students Need It. What Districts are Doing About It.