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Dena Simmons    

Educator, Director of Education at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Dena Simmons, Ed.D., is a lifelong activist, educator and student of life. A native of the Bronx, New York, Simmons grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with her two sisters and immigrant mother. There, she learned and lived the violence of injustice and inequity and decided to dedicate her life to educating and empowering others. As the Director of Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, she supports schools throughout the nation and world to use the power of emotions to create a more effective and compassionate society.

Prior to her work at the Center, Simmons served as an educator, teacher educator, diversity facilitator and curriculum developer. She is a leading voice on teacher education and has spoken across the country about social justice pedagogy, diversity, education reform, emotional intelligence and bullying in K-12 school settings, including the United Nations and two TEDx talks. She writes and has written for numerous outlets including Teaching Tolerance, Bright on Medium, Feminist Teacher and Feministing. Simmons has been profiled in the Huffington Post, the AOL/PBS project, "MAKERS: Women Who Make America," and a Beacon Press Book, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists.

Simmons is a recipient of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a J. William Fulbright Fellowship, an Education Pioneers Fellowship, a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, a Phillips Exeter Academy Dissertation Fellowship and an Arthur Vining Davis Aspen Fellowship among others. She is a graduate of Middlebury College and Pace University. She received her doctorate degree from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Simmons's research interests include teacher preparedness to address bullying in the K-12 school setting as well as the intersection of social and emotional learning and culturally responsive pedagogy -- all in an effort to ensure and foster justice and safe spaces for all.

Speech Topics


Leveraging Emotional Intelligence and Culturally Responsive Practices for Thriving Students

For students to thrive at school, they must feel safe to be who they are; they must love themselves. As a result, our leadership and instruction must foster psychological and emotional safety through emotional intelligence and culturally responsive pedagogy. During this interactive session, participants will explore the five key skills of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions—as well as examples of culturally relevant practices. Through narrative, Simmons will discuss how the intersection of emotionally intelligent and culturally responsive practices can create equitable and welcoming communities, where students can learn in the comfort of their own skin.

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