Committee for Children Blog

Ringing in 2023 with Second Step® Programs: A New Year’s Update from Director of Product Management Liliana Suero

new years sparkler

We sat down with Liliana Suero to learn more about her and what’s on her mind as she looks forward to the coming year.

Happy New Year, Liliana! You joined Committee for Children in 2022 as director of product management, and we’re excited to learn more about you. What are three things you’d like educators to know about you?

Hello and Happy New Year to all our friends, customers, and partners in education! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share a little about myself and our Second Step family of programs.

One thing about me that can surprise people is that I have a computer science degree. I love having fun with people and am often described as funny or talkative, and those qualities sometimes don’t align with what people think of when they think of a computer programmer. Throughout my career I’ve never actually worked as a programmer, but it’s a side of me that’s important to how I show up for my team and my work.

Secondly, I was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and am a second-language learner. I came to the US with my family when I was 17. I always remember why my parents made the sacrifice to bring my siblings and me to America and that motivates me to move forward and achieve beyond my dreams. My immigrant background also helps explain why I’m extremely passionate about creating a user experience that is global, adaptive, inclusive, and relevant to real-life situations.

My third thing is more about my professional background. I bring to this role 27 years of experience in the education field, concentrating in educational technology for the last 10-plus years. My classroom experience is extensive, especially related to best practices in bilingual education, strategies, methodologies for second-language learners, and diversity and inclusion. I’m passionate about developing culturally responsive content that meets the needs of all our students and developing a web-based curriculum that teachers love and that helps students thrive. I bring a respect for and love of teaching to my role, and passion for developing and believing in our community and our kids.

I bring a respect for and love of teaching to my role, and passion for developing and believing in our community and our kids.

Liliana Suero, Director of Product Management
Director of Product Management Liliana Suero

You’ve been delving into the needs of educators and doing a lot of listening. What are some of the things you’re hearing?

As an organization we deeply value our clients, and I’ve been listening formally and informally. I’ve been learning from educator friends, from my development team, from customer feedback gathered by our Education Partnerships Team, and, of course, directly from educators through direct conversations as well as focus groups. Two themes rise to the surface:

  • Educators are continuing to experience high levels of stress. K–8 teachers are saying they have a lot going on right now not only with academics but also with having to work with a hybrid learning system, and then there’s the shortage of teachers and resources. It’s affecting their well-being, their relationships and interactions with students and colleagues, their daily experience at school, and their overall job satisfaction. There’s pressure for administrators and educators to step up, and for administrators themselves to teach in classrooms. They’re often not provided with tools and resources to support their well-being so that they can do their jobs and do them well. A lot of our good people are losing their passion.

Our organization recently did a spotlight on Grant Elementary School in Murray, Utah, where they’ve been using Second Step® SEL for Adults. They reported that after using our program, teachers were feeling more connected with coworkers, administrators, students, and their love of teaching. There’s an opportunity here to make a positive difference for school staff, especially during these unprecedented times.

  • Educators want more ways to meet the social-emotional needs of their students. Participants in our studies are requesting more hands-on activities and active skills practice, more real-world scenarios and topics (especially for older students), and more diverse representation of students and teachers. This is reinforced by student input. Students’ engagement and motivation are lower than previous years, and mental health is a major concern. They’re asking for more of a voice and more agency in their learning.

It’s important to me that we create programs that are simple, practical, and web-based. Teachers want a solution that’s easy to implement and can be integrated with other resources they already use. I was interested to see in a recent survey that schools and districts value solutions and partners that help them be nimble and adaptive when the unexpected happens, like a pandemic. They need something that can work across environments with fewer barriers, and I want to give them that.

What are some things educators can look forward to this year with our programs?

  • Within the Second Step® Elementary and Second Step® Middle School digital programs we’re focusing on student engagement and providing content that makes it easier for teachers to capture their students’ attention. We’re continually adding new resources in different media formats, such as songs and videos, to the Second Step Elementary digital program. As an ed tech company, we want people to be able to grab the content and customize it according to what best fits their needs instead of providing a one-size-fits-all approach. We’ve created a bank of extension activities as an optional tool to increase variety. We’ve also made Mind Yeti® mindfulness sessions available to our Second Step Elementary digital program customers because data showed us that students needed guidance on how to be more present and aware.
  • A study we’re working on with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help us develop teacher supports in Second Step Middle School to elevate students’ agency and voice and increase their engagement and learning.
  • Educators can look forward to continued updates within our Second Step SEL for Adults professional development program. With the core set of professional learning modules now available, educators can explore critically important topics such as building trust; managing stress; fostering equity and belonging; and cultivating efficacy and resilience individually, with their colleagues, and schoolwide.
  • We’ve heard from districts that they’re increasingly interested in tracking, transparency, and being more informed and involved. As a result, an initiative this year is to strengthen the experience of district-level administrators, starting with more visibility into program implementation data.
  • We’re continuing to make our programs available in multiple languages. The Second Step Elementary digital program, Second Step Middle School, and Second Step® Out-of-School Time can all be taught in both English and Spanish. I want to be able to say that about all of our programs and add even more languages so we can reach more kids. 

How will Committee for Children continue to demonstrate its commitment to research and evidence in Second Step® programs?

We’re a data-driven organization that spends a lot of time listening to what our customers and users say about what’s really working in the classroom and what’s not. My team and I are constantly observing usage data, listening to customer feedback and requests, and working with our team of research scientists to understand and incorporate new data coming from external studies and analyses. For some of our programs, external researchers have published results from randomized control trials showing positive outcomes. For our digital programs, our Education, Research, and Impact Team has articulated five key commitments that add up to a difference in quality that educators can expect from Second Step programs through continuous learning and improvement:

  • Research expertise
  • An approach to social-emotional learning from an equity framework
  • Standing advisory groups
  • Ongoing data collection
  • Continued improvement

You can learn more about these five key commitments in our Research and Evidence: The Second Step® Difference blog.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

I’m really looking forward to adding more value for our customers through our work on a program for high school students! We’re currently prototyping content and meeting with focus groups and advisory groups, and the program will continue to be in development cycles throughout 2023. It’s inspiring to watch the team as they learn, test, and refine the program. Today we offer classroom-based programs for PreK through Grade 8, an out-of-school time program, and a program for adults, so this addition will complete our comprehensive, holistic PreK–12 offering in 2024.

Is there anything you want to say to our partners in education as we look ahead to a new year? How can educators provide input?

I want our customers to know that we see them, we hear them, and we value them. We’re partners to our customers and we’ll do anything we can to provide the resources, tools, and content they need to make a positive impact.

Liliana Suero, Director of Product Management

I want our customers to know that we see them, we hear them, and we value them. We’re partners to our customers and we’ll do anything we can to provide the resources, tools, and content they need to make a positive impact. We need to empower, train, and guide educators to teach the whole child. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we teach our children to identify and regulate their emotions so they can have a successful life. I know I share with educators a desire to provide that direct connection between social-emotional learning and higher academic achievement, and to see resilient human beings who are thriving. That to me says we did our job.

An invaluable feedback loop comes from surveys at the end of lessons and, in the case of Second Step SEL for Adults, at the end of microlearnings. Please use those to send us any thoughts and suggestions. We read and consider every single response. And we will continue to provide more information quarterly so customers can stay up to date on program releases.

Additionally, our Product Teams work closely with the Education Partnerships and Client Support and Success Teams who are working with educators every day. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Further reading related to this interview: