Insights from Josefina Ramírez: Creating Inclusive Schools

A photo of a blonde woman wearing glasses, Josefina Ramírez Hazas

We’re delighted to feature Josefina Ramírez, the Social-Emotional Learning Coordinator and Safeguarding Lead at the Euroamerican School of Monterrey, a private trilingual school in Monterrey, Mexico. Josefina also serves as the coordinator of the Counseling and Special Education department of the school. In this interview, she explains how Caring School Community is promoting and creating a culture of belonging in the adult community and intentionally teaching social and emotional skills to students. 

Thank you for speaking with us! Tell us a little about yourself, your school, and the students that you serve.

I’m Josefina Ramírez, but everyone knows me as Fina. I’m from Barcelona. I have a beautiful family with my husband John, who is from Nicaragua. We have three children, twins who are 8 years old and another boy who is 7. We also have Darko, a 13-year-old dog.

I studied elementary education and specialized in special education. I’ve been working in education since I was 18 years old. I’ve had the opportunity to work as an elementary and preschool teacher, as well as a special education teacher. I was the coordinator of a social education center in Barcelona, Spain. When I moved to Nicaragua in 2009 I had the chance to be the Elementary and Preschool Principal at the American Nicaraguan School. 

Five years ago, my family and I moved to Monterrey, Mexico. I now serve as the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Coordinator and Safeguarding Lead at the Euroamerican School of Monterrey.

A circular, abstract logo intended to look like a globe next to text that says "EUROAMERICAN SCHOOL OF MONTERREY | VALLE"

Regarding the students I currently serve, the Euroamerican School of Monterrey is a private trilingual school with around 1,200 students. Initially, my main role was to follow up on cases of students receiving support counseling and/or special education support as I am also the coordinator of the Counseling and Special Education department of the school. This department includes psychologists and educational psychologists, who provide support and guidance to students while offering strategies to teachers. They are a beautiful team of highly involved professionals, and they are the ones who work daily with the students, their families, external therapists, and the school teachers. 

Currently, with the new focus on SEL and the vision of promoting an inclusive environment, my focus is more directed towards creating an educational setting where the emotional well-being of the entire community, including children and adults, is prioritized.

What is the most rewarding part of being an educator for you? 

The most rewarding aspect for me as an educator is being part of that journey in children’s lives, being attentive in case they need help or some form of support, and being able to help create the conditions for each child to flourish at their own pace and in a nurturing environment. 

As the years pass and you see a student achieve their life goals and happiness, and for some reason they come back into your life, witnessing that is the most beautiful thing that this profession can offer, in my opinion.

As the years pass and you see a student achieve their life goals and happiness, and for some reason they come back into your life, witnessing that is the most beautiful thing that this profession can offer, in my opinion.

What do you especially enjoy about your current role? 

What I love most about my current role is seeing the growing awareness that school is not just a place where students are learning math, reading, and writing. I love being part of a model that believes school is a place where children have the opportunity to develop holistically, with emotional education being a top priority.

How did your school first become interested in Caring School Community?

First, I am going to explain how the school decided to prioritize SEL in the educational model. About four years ago, I started collaborating with the Euro School to conduct a study and see how we could promote inclusion in the school. Part of the results focused on reinforcing Tier 1, which is the classroom. To promote inclusion, it was necessary to strengthen an educational environment where all teachers and students respect diversity and feel valued, and these are the principles of SEL. 

This was happening when the pandemic started, and the SEL focus became even more evident as a need. Then two years ago the team of counselors and principals decided together to initiate a strategic plan with SEL as the main focus.

We began researching and decided to take the CASEL course, which focused on how to promote SEL in a school. And that’s how our project started, which is currently one of our international accreditation projects. Within the CASEL platform, there’s an option where you input your school’s needs, and it suggests programs to support your goals. In our case, we have two main parallel goals: to promote and create a SEL culture in the adult community and to intentionally teach SEL to our students. With these two goals in mind, the program that CASEL suggested for us was Caring School Community

Starting from last August, we have been implementing it at the Euro. So, this is our first year with the program.

Tell us a little about the implementation. 

We decided that homeroom teachers would teach the program intentionally,  the assistant principals of the sections would be the leaders of the program, and the counselors would be coaches for the program’s content. 

I believe this is one of the keys to success in the implementation. Even though it’s our first year and we are exploring the program, if the leadership team is truly committed, I am confident that gradually we will build a community with strong foundations in SEL.

We started exploring the structure proposed by the program and adapted it to our daily classroom schedules. In our school, we have one specific class of SEL per week. You might think it’s not that relevant, but having SEL marked on the classroom schedule and dedicated teachers creating SEL lesson plans is a significant small step in raising awareness within the community about the importance of SEL. For me, just like anything you learn, you have to be exposed to the opportunity to practice. This is one of the benefits of the program.

Now we have a program designed with a structured curriculum based on the five SEL competencies and designed for different stages, which provides a lot of confidence to the teachers. Teaching self-awareness to kindergarten students is not the same as teaching it to fifth grade students. This design gives teachers a lot of peace of mind as well.

You’ve been implementing Caring School Community for almost a year. What are you noticing as your implementation has grown and matured? 

Something that is having a very positive impact and has already been integrated into Lower Elementary is the morning circles. For example, if you walk through the Lower Elementary section you can see all the students talking as a small community. The morning circles are designed to provide the classroom with a time in the day to strengthen the community and develop SEL skills. Through open-ended questions, teachers can guide their classroom conversations, always aligned with SEL competencies. They can also ensure a space where all children learn together to create a community where everyone has a voice and is respected.

They can also ensure a space where all children learn together to create a community where everyone has a voice and is respected. 

The principals and counselors have been concurrently creating professional development spaces where SEL is the focus. This also allowed teachers to share how the program is progressing. For example, in the Elementary School (UE), some teachers were stressed because of the pacing and the quantity of the topics that the program has. The assistant principal and counselor decided to help the teachers by reviewing all the topics and aligning them with the school calendar. For example, there are topics about how to manage stress. They decided to teach those topics before the MAP test week. They scheduled the topic of friendship for February to coincide with Valentine’s Day. Now this pacing is working for them.

How do the teachers feel about implementing the Caring School Community program? 

Here is what one of our second grade teachers shared:

“Buddies were assigned in our classroom (pairs). The students have already carried out several activities with their buddies, such as discussing their likes, activities they enjoy doing, and also things they don’t like. They had the opportunity to express their feelings according to some situations as well. 

Students had the opportunity to interact with friends they had never interacted with before and got to know each other better. Some students expressed their enjoyment in getting to know some specific things about their buddies and now they feel they know them very well. Shy students felt very comfortable being with someone. This activity allowed my students to realize how important and interesting it is to open up and connect with more people, not just with their close friends. They are building a school family. I can’t wait to assign new buddies so these connections continue happening in our classroom.”

Another second grade teacher shared:

Caring School Community has helped my students to develop a true sense of school family. We worked on an activity where the kids had different buddies throughout the semester to talk, share, and get to know everyone in their class. That helps them to create a real bond with everyone in the classroom and to connect with and love each other as a real class family.”

A middle school counselor shared:

I have observed noteworthy improvements in the way Middle School students interact with each other. In these early stages, we’ve witnessed encouraging signs of increased empathy among students. Some are now familiar with the feelings of their peers when left alone, demonstrating an increased awareness of the impact of being a bystander, and cultivating kindness towards one another.

While we acknowledge that transformative change doesn’t happen overnight, the program has already generated positive outcomes in various subtle ways. The students’ enhanced consciousness is a proof of the positive effects arising from the time and space that teachers have devoted to promoting a supportive environment through the School Caring initiative. As we continue this journey, we anticipate even more substantial and lasting positive changes in the social dynamics of our Middle School community.”

3 elementary students sit on the floor looking at a female teacher
The Caring School Community program creates a safe environment for students.

How has Caring School Community shifted teaching practices and/or professional learning in your school? 

In middle school, the teachers now know that they are not just a teacher for one subject. They are an integral part of the development of the students. Our teachers know that SEL is part of our culture as a school.

We as a SEL team are also modeling and designing activities for our community of teachers. During professional development time, the counselors and principals are including activities in order to explore and reflect on the five SEL competencies, and we are learning together as a community too.

What thoughts or insights would you share with a school or district that is considering adopting Caring School Community?

It is important to create an SEL team within the learning community that includes the head of the school, principals, and counselors. This team should review the program together, and not assume that because everything is there the teachers will know how to use them. The should work as a team. 

In closing, I will also share this reflection from our Upper Elementary principal, Ms. Marce Jurado:

“It is wonderful to see how the consistency of the Caring School Community program creates a safe environment for students—they come to school sure of how their day will begin and what will happen during the day. The Caring School Discipline handbook is a helpful guide on how to deal with certain situations by making students aware of their actions, consequences, and guiding them into finding the best solution.”


About Josefina Ramírez, SEL Coordinator, Euroamerican School of Monterrey

Josefina Ramírez is an educator of vocation, mind, and heart. Her pedagogical approach is based on creativity, dynamism, and real connection with students and community, in order to promote critical thinking and provide a holistic education that respects each student’s individuality. She has been working in the education field since she was 18 years old, which has allowed her to explore different areas such as primary and preschool education, special education, SEL, curriculum, universities, and administration.

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Learn more about Caring School Community.