Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Academy Leadership and Facilitators


Maurice Elias, Ph.D – Program Co-Director

Professor of Psychology, Rutgers; Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab; Director, Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service

Maurice Elias is Professor, Psychology Department, Rutgers University, Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, and Academic Director of The Collaborative, Rutgers’ Center for Community-Based Research and Service. He is Past President of the Society for Community Research and Action/Division of Community Psychology (27) of APA and has received the SCRA Distinguished Contribution to Practice and Ethnic Minority Mentoring Awards, as well as APA’s National Psychological Consultants to Management Award, the Joseph E. Zins Memorial Senior Scholar Award for Social-Emotional Learning from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the John P. McGovern Medal from the American School Health Association, and the Sanford McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education.

Dr. Elias lectures nationally and internationally to educators and parents about students’ emotional intelligence, school success, and social-emotional and character development. A recent recipient of the Sanford McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education, among Dr. Elias’ numerous books are ASCD’s Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, the Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving curricula for grades k-8, the new e-book, Emotionally Intelligent Parenting (via Kindle and Nook) and a book for young children: Talking Treasure: Stories to Help Build Emotional Intelligence and Resilience in Young Children (, 2012). Maurice writes a blog for the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia Website.


Patricia Heindel, Ph.D. – Program Co-Director

Dean of Human and Social Development, Saint Elizabeth University; Co-Project Leader of the Academy for Social Emotional Learning in Schools; Director, CSE Center for Human and Social Development; Co-Director of the School Culture and Climate Initiative, a partnership of the CSE Center and the Youth Empowerment Alliance of the United Way of Northern New Jersey

Patricia Heindel, Ph.D., co-project leader with Maurice Elias, Ph.D. of the Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools, is a professor of psychology and Dean of Human and Social Development at Saint Elizabeth University. She is the Director of the CSE Center for Human and Social Development and the Center’s School Culture and Climate Assessment Lab. She is co-director of the School Culture and Climate Initiative delivered in partnership between the Center for Human and Social Development and the Youth Empowerment Alliance of the United Way of Northern New Jersey.

The Initiative (modeled on the Developing Safe and Civil School Project led by Maurice Elias) is currently partnering with over 50 schools in 12 districts in Northern New Jersey to assess and improve their cultures and climates. She served as Psychology Program Chair at CSE for 21 years before becoming Dean. In 2007, Dr. Heindel was recognized as Teacher of the Year by the New Jersey Psychological Association. She has served as senior editor of the online Journal of the Behavioral and Social Sciences and is the editor of the CLEP test preparation manual in Developmental Psychology.

Donna Black – Facilitator

Education Consultant

Donna Black is a consultant to public schools and has more than twenty-five years of experience working in public education. She was the state leader for the Texas Collaborative for Emotional Development in Schools from 2006-2011. During her leadership of this project, Donna facilitated a state-level stakeholder committee which culminated in the development of the Texas Social-Emotional Wellness Model and implementation of the model in several school districts across Texas. Donna’s advocating efforts for social-emotional wellness and school mental health have included state- and national-level presentations on this topic. Donna also has served on a national work group to examine the issues of bullying and cyberbullying and on a state-level work group to support school districts’ efforts to implement positive behavioral interventions and supports. In 2014, Donna was recognized by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) for her exemplary efforts in advocating for school mental health. Donna also has received two appointments by the Governor of Texas to serve on the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and remains an active member of this Board today.

Victoria Blakeney – Facilitator

Education Program Professional for Safe and Respectful Learning Environments

Victoria Blakeney holds a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership and has more than 20 years of experience in education, including more than ten years in the administration of school-based programs for social and emotional learning. She served as the first Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum Coordinator in the Anchorage School District, bringing together diverse stakeholders to plan, coordinate and implement school initiatives, and was honored by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning as the first ever winner of the Joseph E. Zins Purpose Award, given to a practitioner who has contributed substantially to promoting system-level changes for SEL in schools. Victoria has been both a high school teacher and an elementary school vice-principal, where she worked to implement social and emotional learning theories and practice at the classroom and school level, and has worked with curriculum developers to write SEL lessons for publication.

In Victoria’s current role at the Nevada Department of Education she is responsible for providing technical assistance and training in the building of safe and respectful learning environments; bullying prevention, identification and reporting; facilitating positive school climates and positive human relationships; and teaching pro-social skills.

Erin Bruno – Facilitator

Lead Trainer for Rutgers University, University Behavioral Health Care’s Social Decision Making/Problem Solving Program (SDM/PS)

Erin Bruno, MA, has been working in the field of Social and Emotional Learning, Conflict Resolution, and Anger Management for more than 20 years. 16 of those years have been spent working as the Lead Trainer for Rutgers University, University Behavioral Health Care’s Social Decision Making/Problem Solving Program (SDM/PS). Erin has presented and worked with many schools across the United States and assisted in the writing and publishing of the Social Decision Making and Problem Solving Curriculum’s. Erin has worked extensively with administrators,teachers, mental health professionals, parents and students in the field of Social and Emotional learning and continues to be inspired by the dedicated people she has had the privilege to work with.

Ed Dunkelblau, Ph.D. – Facilitator

Director, Institute for Emotionally Intelligent Learning

Dr. Ed Dunkelblau is an internationally known speaker and consultant on the topics of Social Emotional Learning, Safe Schools programming and Humor in Education. He has numerous publications including the Social Emotional and Character Development quick reference and has been an organizational consultant to dozens of schools, districts, State boards of education and corporations. He was the lead consultant to the Kansas Board of Education in developing the Country’s first Social Emotional and Character learning standards and he is the expert faculty for ASCD specializing in social emotional learning. He is one of the developers of the online course series for credentialing in Social Emotional Learning. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, on NPR and CNN. His awards include Alumnus of the year award from Columbia University Teachers College, the Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Kansas and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Applied Humor from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

Laura Russomano, Ed.D. – Facilitator

Educational Consultant

Laura comes to the Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools with more than 40 years of experience in education. Her interest in social emotional development began while working with students with disabilities and realizing that their issues did not begin and end in the classroom, but rather impacted the away they interacted with others and how others interacted with them This led to a career long passion to help all students strengthen their character by teaching them how to develop social and emotional competencies.As an elementary school principal, she and her staff implemented school-wide philosophies that focused on SECD. Their efforts were recognized as Best Practices by the Character Education Partnership and by being named a New Jersey School of Character. In addition to her work in public and private elementary schools, Dr. Russomano has developed and taught courses at the graduate level.

Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor, Ed.D. – Facilitator

Superintendent of K-12 Highland Park Public Schools, New Jersey

Scott Taylor is currently Superintendent of K-12 Highland Park Public Schools in New Jersey and is adjunct faculty for the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and Montclair University. He has served as an assistant principal, principal, curriculum director, and assistant superintendent at all K-12 levels. As high school principal, Taylor led the Academy of Allied Health and Science, which was recognized as one of the first National Service Learning Leader Schools. He has co-developed and implemented social-emotional learning programs in each of the districts he’s led. Taylor received his doctorate from Columbia University and B.A., Ed.M. from Rutgers University. He is a continual learner who serves on the Board of Directors for the New Jersey School Development Council and the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, as well as the George Street Playhouse Education Advisory Board. Learn more about Scott Taylor by visiting his website:, his blog, or his featured articles for Edutopia and Education World.

Bill Trusheim

William Trusheim, Ed.D. – Program Facilitator and Community Resource Director

Program Facilitator and Resource Director President of the New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional and Character Development

Dr. Trusheim is a retired educator with forty-two years of experience in the public schools of New Jersey. Dr. Trusheim began his career in 1970 as Director of Bands at South River High School where he also served as Music Department Chairman. In 1987, Dr. Trusheim left South River to become the Director of Fine and Performing Arts and Director of Adult Education in Pequannock Township in North Jersey. Dr. Trusheim served as Assistant Principal in Pequannock Valley School for three years prior to being named Principal of the school in 1994. During his fourteen years as Principal, Pequannock Valley School was named “New Jersey School of Character” and National Finalist for “National School of Character.”

Additionally, programs at PV received several Best Practice Awards from the State of New Jersey and from the Character Education Partnership in Washington, D.C.Dr. Trusheim was a major figure in developing and implementing the Pequannock School District’s Random Drug Testing program, making Pequannock Valley School the first middle school in New Jersey to implement such a program. Dr. Trusheim has done numerous presentations on Random Drug Testing at the local, state, and national levels.In retirement, Dr. Trusheim is serving as President of the New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional, and Character Development. NJASECD administers the New Jersey Schools of Character Program – the first step for schools to attain recognition as National Schools of Character. NJASECD also runs a statewide annual conference at Rider University. Dr. Trusheim is an annual presenter at the NJASECD Conference and at Character Education Partnership’s National Forum. Dr. Trusheim also serves on the advisory board for the “Campaign Connect” Program which is being developed by the Princeton Center for Supportive Schools to recognize schools who are working to develop positive school culture and climate.Dr. Trusheim continues to be involved as a member of the United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Youth Empowerment Alliance and School Support Network and is currently a field consultant with the United Way/College of Saint Elizabeth School Culture and Climate Initiative (SCCI). Dr. Trusheim is also the Director of the SEL Resource Center for the Online Credentialing Program at the College of Saint Elizabeth.

Dr. Trusheim earned his B.A. in Music Education from Rutgers College, his M.Ed. in Administration from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

Liz Warner – Facilitator

Co-Director, of the School Culture and Climate Initiative: a partnershipof United Way Youth Empowerment Allianceand College of Saint Elizabeth Center forHuman and Social Development; Chair of the New Jersey Culture and ClimateCoalition; Community Impact Senior Manager, Education; and the YEA ProjectLeader.

Liz joined United Way in 2007. In early 2008 she created and led the team that launchedthe Youth Empowerment Alliance (YEA) which is focused on ensuring all childrenhave the solid foundation and life long skills needed to thrive academically,physically and emotionally. During her tenure she has established YEA andUWNNJ as a leading center for Social, Emotional and Character Development(SECD) and Culture and Climate work within the state of NJ.

Specific initiatives launched include the New Jersey Culture and Climate Coalition, theSchool Culture and Climate Initiative and the YEA School Support Network. Boththe School Culture and Climate Initiative and the School Support Network areaward winning initiatives and have recently been recognized as nationalPromising Practices by the Character Education Partnership in Washington DC.

Liz sits on many local and state-wide committees including the Community Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Morris; the CampaignConnect Center for Supportive Schools-New Jersey Advisory Board, the Social-EmotionalLearning Credentialing Advisory Panel Rutgers/CSE Joint Partnership  and on the New Jersey School Board Association Health and Wellness Task Force. Liz often speaks both regionally and nationally on collaboration building and the‘School led-District wide’ model of sustainable culture and climate change. Most recently, under Liz’s leadership the School Culture and Climate Initiative was awarded a $793,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide sustainable mental health supports to students in 17 schools in Morris County adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Before United Way, Liz spent 7 years in various volunteer leadership positions in theUK including founding her own not-for-profit organization, being chairperson of the largest branch of the National Childbirth Trust, acting as the lead member of the Epperstone Village Planning Council, being chair of the local village pre-school as well as leading fundraising and planning efforts to build two tennis courts and playground facilities in her village.

Prior to this, Liz spent 16 years in educational publishing working both in the US and internationally. Highlights of her publishing career include being Managing Director of WH Freeman, Ltd, and Global Sales Director of Macmillan Press. Liz originally hails from Wisconsin however has lived in Denmark and has spent 16 years in the UK. In addition she is a motivational speaker who often shares her harrowing story of her 10 day unsupported trek to the North Pole.