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Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, episode #91, with Jessica and John Hannigan, the authors of the brand-new book, SEL From a Distance: Tools and Processes for Anytime, Anywhere. [i] This is a timely and importance topic, with the pandemic this year, and subsequent switch to distance learning combined with recent instances of racial injustice has put a spotlight on the cracks in the practice of social and emotional learning (SEL). I launched this podcast in June of 2019 when I saw the need to highlight leaders in the field of SEL, but now, more than ever before, schools are shifting their focus and prioritizing SEL competencies—around the nation and the world.

Watch this interview on YouTube here. 

My name is Andrea Samadi,  and if you are new here, I’m a former educator who created this podcast to bring the most current neuroscience research, along with high performing experts who have risen to the top of their field, with specific strategies or ideas that you can implement immediately, whether you are an educator, or in the corporate space, to take your results to the next level. If we want to improve our social, emotional and cognitive abilities, it all starts with an understanding of our brain.

Today I am thrilled to have behavior experts Jessica and John Hannigan, who have drawn together a collection of tools and processes for social and emotional learning that can be applied in any learning environment with their NEW book, SEL from a Distance.

Dr. Jessica Hannigan is an assistant professor in the Educational Leadership Department at California State University, Fresno. She works with schools and districts across the nation on designing and implementing effective behavior systems. Her expertise includes response-to-intervention (RTI) behavior, multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS), positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS), social and emotional learning (SEL), and more.

John E. Hannigan, EdD , is an executive leadership coach for Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in California. He has served in education for over 15 years as a principal, assistant principal, instructional coach, and teacher. Under his leadership, his school has received numerous awards and recognitions, including California State Distinguished School, Gold Ribbon School, Title I Academic School, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (Platinum Level).

Hannigan, Jessica,Hannigan, John E. (2106-02-06T23:28:15). SEL From a Distance (Kindle Locations 410-414). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

In SEL from a Distance, you’ll learn:

    The five SEL competencies and dozens of easy to use processes for building skills in each.How to identify challenging behaviors and prioritize, define mastery, and teach the SEL skills necessary to address them.Tips for identifying, teaching, modeling, and reinforcing SEL skills in a virtual setting.Strategies for applying SEL to the needs of your unique learning environment.

Welcome Jessica and John, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, and sharing this new resource for those listening around the world.

For this interview, I did want to read what others are saying about this new book, with a question attached to each testimonial.  I really do think that everyone listening should go to the link below, and grab a copy of this book, whether you are an educator, or someone looking for ideas to implement social and emotional learning competencies with your children, this book is a must read.

Just to give you both some background, since we are just meeting, my interest in social and emotional learning goes back over 20 years ago, when I was a frustrated educator, with no resources in the area of behavior management. When I see a book like yours, I really do want the world to know about it.  Here’s what other leaders in the field of education are saying about your book:


“People are seeing the importance of SEL, and Jessica Hannigan and John Hannigan have written a timely and responsive book that will help teachers and leaders create opportunities for students to become more independent and successful now, during distance learning, and in the future.” Peter DeWitt, Author/Blogger/Consultant

Q1: I love how you begin this book by addressing what is SEL, and why is it so important. This is exactly how I started this podcast, when I saw a need to showcase leaders in SEL in one place. Why is SEL important now, more than ever?

“With the rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide over the last few years, schools have faced the challenge of how to address the social and emotional needs of all students. Now, during the pandemic, the need is more acute, and schools require more assistance. SEL From a Distance offers an easy-to-follow framework to build our students’ skills in the key SEL competencies. The authors have taken a complex topic and created an easy-to-use guide for school teams and leaders. Any school searching for what to do next should pick up this book.” Brian Jaramillo, Executive Director of Education Services Lompoc Unified SD

Q2: I also love the framework that you chose, honoring the work that CASEL[ii] has done with their 5 SEL competencies.  We did interview Karen Niemi, the president of CASEL on EPISODE #62[iii] since their work around SEL has been so robust. When writing the Tools and Processes section, that focuses on each of the 5 competencies, how did you brainstorm the sub-sections within each competency? For example, under self-awareness, you have sub-sections of identifying emotions, self-perception, and strengths, with tools for each sub section. Can you share how you came up with these subsections, that create the powerful framework for this book?

Chapter 7. Self-Awareness Tools and Processes

SEL Competency: Self-Awareness

Identifying Emotions

Tool 1: Daily SEL Check-In

Tool 2: Virtual Mindfulness Minutes


Tool 1: “Virtual Camera Imagery” Exercise

Tool 2: Email/Letter to Self Recognizing


Tool 1: Growth Mindset Exercise

Tool 2: Self-Esteem Lesson

Tool 3: Help-Seeking Prompts

Hannigan, Jessica,Hannigan, John E. (2106-02-06T23:28:15). SEL From a Distance (Kindle Locations 286-296). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

“Social and emotional skills they are lacking via distance learning, and this book solves that problem. It is structured so that the reader and school teams can implement the techniques and strategies to best meet the needs of their students. The rubrics and activities can be easily implemented into core curriculum content across all grade levels. I highly recommend this book for all school staff, support staff, and district office personnel to truly understand how to implement SEL in a concrete and appropriate way to ensure student success.”

Brooke Warkentin , Director of Special Services Lemoore Union Elementary School District, CA

Q3: I have heard over and over again, “how will SEL be implemented with Distance Learning?” and your book was clearly written with this purpose in mind? How are teachers implementing the rubrics and activities into core curriculum?

“What is great about this book is that it provides a clear process to identify students’ needs followed by effective and practical methods to teach these critical social and emotional skills. The learning and support students receive will help them at school, at home, and within their communities for the rest of their lives. The book does an excellent job of supporting educators in an area where we often struggle and need additional support.” Eduardo Ochoa, Assistant Superintendent Lemoore Union Elementary School District, CA

Q4: I’ve heard that many teachers know that SEL is important, but they don’t have a clear starting point, or plan in place for SEL. They aren’t sure if they should buy a whole program or use the kernel approach of implementing some ideas on a smaller scale. How does this book identify students’ needs and create a clear path for the SEL skills they need whether they are in school, their homes, or in their community?

“My teacher helps us use strategies to relax our brains when we are feeling stressed.” Harmon, 4th Grade, CA

“My teacher told our class, ‘If you need someone to talk to, I am here for you.’ This was powerful to hear. I have never had a teacher say that to an entire class before.” Ani, 12th Grade, MO

Q5: What are students saying about the activities they are doing? Are there any specific stories you can share with feedback from students?

Q6: Is there anything important, that we have missed?

For those who want to learn more about your book, they can get it right now through Corwin, Press, or from Amazon. What is the best way for people to reach you?


@JohnHannigan75 on Twitter.

Equity in School Discipline FB Group


Peter DeWitt

Casel’s SEL Competencies Framework PDF

Behavior Solutions by Jessica and John Hannigan, Mike Mattos and Austin Buffum

Don’t Suspend Me, Jessica and John Hannigan

Netflix The Social Dilemma

Corwin Press 30% off till the end of the year with CODE SELNOW

[i] SEL From a Distance

[ii]’s 5 CORE SEL Competencies

[iii] Neuroscience Meets SEL EPISODE #62 with Karen Niemi, President of CASEL