Two professors at Cal State Bakersfield, through their work in education and interactions with teachers across Kern County, recognized there was a need to explore ethics, social-emotional learning and democratic areas in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms.

Enter the SEEDE Institute, or Social Emotional Ethics and Democratic Education.

Founded in 2018 by CSUB professors Michael D. Burroughs, Ph.D., and Brittney Beck, Ph.D., the two found ways to combine their specializations into a four-day institute that benefits teachers hoping to engage with their students and create a more open and respectful environment in classrooms.

"A lot of education happens in a manner that's top-down and less inclusive of students' interests," Burroughs said. "My work is teaching how to incorporate students in the teaching process."

The second annual SEEDE Institute will take place July 22-24 and 26 at CSUB. Twenty-three local kindergarten through sixth grade teachers, ranging from first-year to veteran teachers, participate in several workshops and present how they plan to use topics covered in the institute in their classrooms.

Topics include ethics education, social-emotional learning and democratic pedagogy. Sessions provide information on current research and focus on strategies to adopt those topics in the classroom, school and community, according to the SEEDE Institute website.

Beck and Burroughs explained teachers can incorporate these topics through children's literature and vignettes, which are open-ended short stories, by discussing challenges and problems they are facing in the classroom.

Participants get to take 12 children's books back to their classrooms that address different issues such as race, LGBTQ and immigration.

This year's institute also includes two special topics: trauma sensitive practices and religious diversity in classrooms. 

"(Students in Kern County) come carrying trauma from poverty, immigration status ... how they need to acclimate to environment," Beck said.

The institute is partnering with the Dream Center and representatives will be "coming to talk to students about what type of trauma students are experiencing and productive ways teachers can work with their students," she added.

After the four-day institute, participants are then involved in a year-long coaching cycle.

"Understanding that one-and-done workshops are not very effective, we engage in year-long cycles of coaching, and that coaching takes the form of asking the participant to create lesson plans that are SEEDE informed," Beck explained.

The two conduct in-classroom observations and provide feedback on ways teachers can improve or continue to use SEEDE-based concepts in their classrooms.

Marci Diller, Ph.D., a third grade teacher at Leo B. Hart Elementary School, said she received valuable feedback on how to open dialogue on social-emotional issues her students may be facing in the classroom when Beck and Burroughs observed her.

"There’s not curriculum in our Common Core State Standards that can address that," she said. "There’s not a lot of training in our credentialing program that addresses that, so with the SEEDE program they’re trying to fill a gap that exists in the classrooms and helping kids deal with behaviors and how to solve situations without getting in fights, but rather how to use your words and recognize feelings."

To fill that gap, she used literature and vignettes, as suggested through the institute, and she talked about the norms for dialogue with student so they feel respected and heard.

"There’s no wrong opinion, and we need to hear each other," she said. "If I'm going to read a story, why not make it a story that’s going to have a tool that can be used or something that can open discussion on ways to handle things that can help them?"

Many, such as Ivania Villatoro, a second grade teacher at Stella Hills Elementary School, have already been implementing the topics discussed in the institute but they wanted to find ways they could improve and expand.

"It really helped me realize how helpful it is to kids that what they believe in matters and it makes them feel more confident in the classroom," Villatoro said.

She explained a majority of the students in Stella Hills Elementary come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. "They lack a lot of confidence. They lack a lot of love. They don’t really self-respect."

At the beginning of the school year, her students come up with classroom rules, which include being nice and respectful to each other. Giving them a voice changes their outlook, she said, and she feels it has made her a better person and teacher.

Diller recommends the program to all teachers because even though she has spent more than 30 years in the classroom, the lessons taught are valuable.

"I think this is an area in today’s schools for teachers to have the right tools for because it’s so necessary that we have discipline issues in classrooms and we need to have strategies to deal with them," she said. "It’s just another tool that can be very useful for new and veteran teachers."

After seeing positive results from the first cohort, Beck said future years will see the addition of other special topics relative to the community, such as migrant students and immigration. Ultimately, the goal is to have the best learning practices in classrooms statewide and supporting teachers.

"One of the more successful things is creating a community around teachers who want to benefit their kids and bring them together," Burroughs said. "The community building aspect of this and the support of talking with kids is really needed."

To learn more about the program, visit

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

(6) comments


To all the rudeness out there folks take a deep breath. It’s sounds like programs like this would have helped you when you were children. As far as the old scapegoats talk. You folks are always welcome to homeschool your own children. Please stop the whining and actually try doing something positive for a change. It was bad when you were grade school kids now it’s just embarrassing.


I partially agree with the 1st two responders. This program is overreach. Teachers have enough on their plate just teaching the core curriculum without also having to be psychological therapists as well. Making kids "feel good about themselves" does not override the feelings of incompetence derived from not being competent academically. Focusing first on academic competence will go a long ways to help kids become confident, competent, and more socially-emotionally secure. Teachers want to teach kids, not also be directly responsible for their psychological security. The latter can be indirectly derived from effective teaching of the curriculum.

Inconvenient Truth

A school is not a "re-education camp." It is a teacher's job to set the classroom rules, teach the required subjects, and (hopefully) impart the required knowledge to each student to allow them to progress in their education, and eventually become productive members of society. It a is a parent's job to impart morals and values to their children. When I hear a teacher say "there are no wrong opinions" I cringe. What this statement really means is that all opinions in alignment with liberal-progressive ideologies are valid, while those based in traditional religious thought are taboo. Since the outlawing of traditional Judeo-Christian values in the classroom, only secular humanism and progressive thought is allowed in public schools. George Orwell must be spinning in his grave as he sees our modern public education system where government representatives mandate that children MUST attend school where they are indoctrinated with the latest party philosophy. Schools are now also providing pre and post school supervision as well as much of the food (year-round breakfast and lunch programs) for students. All that is left is for schools to begin housing and providing clothes for students and parents will finally be rendered obsolete. The real reason that the NEA and CTA virulently oppose school vouchers is that they know the public school system would collapse overnight if parents were given the option of selecting a private school whose teachers reinforced the values parents taught their children at home.


In an ideal world I would agree that values and systems are best left to the parents too. But I think when you read this article closely you see that not all children have the benefit of growing up where both or one parent(s) are present. Unfortunately, all you need to do is walk into a classroom to understand that kids come from an array of households. Your child may have the home where treating others with respect, manners, and opinions are valued. However, the reality is that no two classroom are the same much less to schools. Sometimes teachers are asked to do so much for for their students because the students are persons with souls, minds, and hearts. Not inmates, numbers, words, or purely academics. They are kids.


There's nothing like indoctrination young and early. Your job as teachers is improving Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic scores, which you HAVEN'T been doing a very good job of. Keep your own values to yourself and let the parents take care of the rest at home..for your information.

Inconvenient Truth

“At the beginning of the school year, her students come up with classroom rules...” And this is why California’s school system is collapsing despite the billions of dollars we throw at it: The inmates are running the asylum.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.