Skip to main content


Person Typing on Laptop

Operation Xcel Supports Culturally Competent and Equity-Literate Educators Ensuring a Healthy Learning Environment for All, Especially Our Students!

SEL Day 2024- a day to check up on Operation Xcel's learning environment.

Low-income and minority students face obstacles to healthy development. Equitable social-emotional development is crucial for their well-being. Effective strategies and resources must be implemented to help them achieve their full potential.

K-12 health education fosters better learning and career potential. Racial and ethnic integration in schools improves academic performance and SEL competencies. Operation Xcel enhances BIPOC and low-income students' academic, social, and emotional learning potential with healthy strategies.

I interviewed two Operation Xcel educators—Desiree King, a former site director, and Allison Pickett, a site director and Learning Equity Network of Solutions (LENS) program training facilitator.  The purpose of the interview was the ascertain how Operation Xcel:

1. ensures a healthy learning environment for BIPOC and low-income students;

2. resolves conflicts among students/staff. Example;

3. trains/supports educators in implementing SEL; and,

4. supports culturally competent and equity-literate educators.

The Interview

EDWeek argues that every child should have the chance to learn in a healthy school environment where their social, emotional, academic, physical, and mental health is fully supported. However, students from BIPOC communities or low-income areas may lack access to such an environment. How does OPX ensure that these students have the opportunity to learn in a healthy environment?

(Allison Pickett) Operation Xcel empowers students with the tools to handle real-life issues maturely. The staff encourages students to calm down and think about a time when they were upset or angry. This approach helps the child to take an objective look at their behavior and embrace alternative and more acceptable ways of dealing with anger. The goal is to help students gather more tools to handle conflict and adversity better, learn tolerance, and turn their behavior into a positive SEL experience.

Restorative justice is a better option than punitive discipline. It helps to improve relationships between teachers and students, foster social and emotional growth, and enhance academic achievement. Can you tell me how OPX resolves conflicts and provide an example?

Operation Xcel staff facilitates restorative conversations between involved individuals. They intentionally remove physical obstructions that may block effective communication. The objective is to have a conversation that involves having them think about how their behavior made the other person feel. Ground rules may include requiring that only one person talks at a time, to hear each other out, etc. Addressing the conflict right after the occurrence prevents the issue from festering out of control.

How does the offender repair the harm? 

Ask the offended what would make them whole again. Then, the offender can meet them where they are, within boundaries that the teacher may clarify.

Valuing diversity, being culturally self-aware, and appreciating other cultures creates a welcoming space where students feel they belong.  How does OPX train and support educators in implementing SEL?

(Desiree King) Operation Xcel employees who work with children are trained on a program called Second-Step* for SEL. The training provides skills-based learning at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. They meet each student once a week and cover various topics such as skills for learning, focusing in, self-talk, posture, being assertive, and staying on task.

How do you tailor it to the needs of the students?

We address bullying by teaching empathy and caring to students. We proactively teach strategies to address adverse behavior.

Is it a group or individual teacher moment? 

Individual or group training can be provided to overcome unacceptable behavior. Teachers can print lessons and provide instructions with demonstrations and coloring. The Second Step lists concepts and objectives for students to identify negative behavior, predict outcomes, and offer solutions. In some cases, videos may be used to address the behavior and correct response.

Schools can create a more welcoming environment supporting social-emotional development when addressing inequities.  How does OPX support culturally competent and equity-literate educators?

Our teachers are highly qualified and receive ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion training. Site directors, who are experienced educators, provide support and assistance to newly hired teachers, tutors, and mentors. They also help with the hiring process to ensure that new hires have the skills to work with students from diverse backgrounds.

LENS raises awareness and supports diverse learners with IEPs or 504s. Site directors trained parents and now they will train teachers. Operation Xcel provides supplementary instruction and intervention as a Tier 2 facility (supplemental instruction). They help students in areas where they are struggling. 

At Operation Homework, we help students who are reading below grade level. We provide supplementary resources to fill in the gaps and help them reach their grade level. Students must complete these tools along with their regular homework.

Operation Xcel offers ongoing training resources to support culturally competent and equity-literate educators so that everyone can thrive.