Committee for Children Blog

Introducing Polly Stansell as VP of Product

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social emotional learning, SEL, second step, committee for children

Nearly 40 years ago, a group of like-minded, highly motivated research scientists began a grassroots effort to help victims of child sexual abuse. That group evolved to become Committee for Children, which today partners with researchers, publishers, and nonprofits around the world, with programs reaching over 14 million students annually in more than 70 countries. The future holds much promise, so we at Committee for Children are continually improving and evolving to stay ahead of the trends in social-emotional learning (SEL).

With the new school year upon us and many upgrades and updates happening at Committee for Children we’re pleased to announce the highly anticipated addition of an inspiring visionary to our Executive Leadership Team as . . .

Another Champion for Children Joins Our Team

Polly Stansell recently joined Committee for Children as vice president of product. Previously, Polly was responsible for strategy, instructional design, and product development at Voyager Sopris Learning (VSL). Before VSL, Polly worked for McGraw-Hill, completing her time there as senior director of emerging curricula in the Digital Innovation group. (Read Polly’s full bio.) As the newest member of our leadership team, Polly is developing products that support the whole child—from social-emotional learning (SEL) to child protection and bullying prevention.

John Hults, our vice president of operations, gave this assessment of the leadership team’s executive search, saying, “We knew we would need a special person to help drive us toward best practices in product development and management . . . a servant-leader who could manage large-scale organizational change while holding dear the best aspects of our mission-driven culture and SEL program history. We got all that and more with Polly Stansell.”

Real Opportunities for Committee for Children

Between product and strategy meetings, Polly spoke of the energy she’s experienced since joining Committee for Children and her eagerness to begin this journey down a new path. “I have a lot of experience in organizational change helping teams be more productive and higher performing,” she said. “With our change to Agile, where teams are responsible for product decisions, there is a lot of enthusiasm. It’s all based on collaboration and transparency throughout the process, and inclusion, which I think are all really nice things to have in an SEL organization in any organization.”

Polly pointed to Committee for Children’s deep, solid foundation in SEL as a great place from which to build on the exciting organizational changes and evolution we’re currently undergoing. “We need to take our 40 years of experience in this space and our knowledge of these customers and use that to think more deeply about the kind of products we develop.”

Asked to discuss our advantages in the marketplace, Polly explained, “It’s our attention to high-quality research that produces evidence of effectiveness, which is something that English language arts programs and math programs have been asked to provide before schools invest in them.” She continued, “It’s now becoming more and more apparent that districts want their SEL programs to have evidence as well. There’s some real opportunities for us.”

Connecting Communities and Helping Teachers

Along with the prospect of a bright future for Committee for Children, Polly has a vision for furthering and deepening our impact on schools. On the topic of integrating technology and creating a culture of connectedness within classrooms and learning spaces, she said, “I think we have an opportunity to with technology look at ways we can connect with teachers and students throughout the day. Ways of pushing information out based on greater awareness of students and teachers in their day will be important for achieving impact.” Polly outlined why there’s an opportunity for us as thought leaders because of our nonprofit approach in contrast to the for-profit model, where we’re “exploring project ideas due to impact or reach and not just the financial return on investment.”

Underlying Polly’s solid product development and team leader acumen is an awareness, a sense of empathy for teachers that comes through with her ideas about impact and sustainability for social-emotional learning. “We need to be a proponent of professional development that provides an extended engagement with the content, with a professional-learning community associated with it so teachers have opportunities to share ideas with one another.” Teachers helping teachers who help students become not just better students, but better people.

From this empathetic approach, she solidifies her case for SEL-centric pedagogy, declaring, “It’s just as important that our teachers be as highly qualified in SEL as they would be qualified in math or English language arts or history or science.” This is a position building district, state, and federal policy for fully certified SEL instructors that Polly explained with her assessment, “Until they start to graduate pre-service teachers that have a background at least a foundation in SEL, we will fall short of the goal of having completely competent teachers, highly qualified in social-emotional learning.” And she intends to guide product development and program implementation at Committee for Children with Second Step© leading toward this foundational acceptance. “It has to start somewhere. We have to support administrators, teachers, caregivers, and students through our thought leadership and excellent curriculum and supports.”

Leadership, Passion, and More “A-ha!” Moments

Polly Stansell was once a teacher, and she remains connected to her teacher’s awareness of the struggles, obstacles, and barriers that prevent students from learning and children from thriving in a peaceful world. But she believes in the power of good teachers who are provided with effective tools to make profound, sustainable change happen. Asked what she misses about her classroom, she doesn’t hesitate: “It’s when you have an impact on a life that ‘A-ha!’ moment. I know products that I’ve developed are helping teachers be more successful in getting those ‘A-ha!’ moments for themselves. That brings a lot of joy, as well.”

Executive Director Joan Cole Duffell was enthused to offer her impression of our newest executive, saying, “Polly brings extensive ed-tech product leadership, combined with a big passion for Committee for Children’s mission. We, as well as the children, families, and educators we serve, are lucky to have her on our leadership team.”

Polly is truly our champion for children. Thinking about effecting change and leading with action she asked, “Imagine how different the world would be . . . if we had a little bit more of that ability to empathize, to listen, to trust?” Indeed, managing talent and producing results while fostering the safety and well-being of children through social-emotional learning and development. That’s Committee for Children’s mission, and Polly Stansell’s as well.

Polly Stansell Bio:

Polly enjoys her role helping provide children with the necessary building blocks for their future. Having worked in the ed-tech industry since 1993, Polly joined Voyager Sopris Learning (VSL) in 2013 and was responsible for strategy, ideation, instructional design, and product development. Before VSL, Polly worked for McGraw-Hill’s Reality Based Learning, Lightspan Partnership, and Edmark Center, completing her time at McGraw-Hill with its Digital Innovation group as senior director of emerging curricula.

In addition to Polly’s product development responsibilities, she has served as a board member and on the strategic council for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and worked on the Corporate Advisory Council for Excellence in Education. Polly is also a member of numerous industry-related organizations. Maybe most influential for Committee for Children and our ongoing mission, she’s been a classroom teacher in grades 2 through 6. Polly completed her bachelor’s in elementary education from Westminster College and earned her master’s in educational technology from San Diego State.

At Committee for Children, Polly handles our strategic product vision and guides product delivery and execution through its full delivery cycle. In addition, she leads our product development team, coordinating closely with other members of the executive leadership team.