Principal, Social & Emotional Learning - Education First

Location: United States

Type: Full Time

Min. Experience: Senior Executive

About Education First:

Education First is a seasoned team of trusted advisors to the leaders responsible for delivering what many Americans want most: public education that effectively prepares all students for success in college, careers and a world of constant change. We were founded in 2006 in order to fill a need in the field for excellent consulting and advising delivered by educators and education policy advisors.

Our mission is to deliver exceptional ideas, experience-based solutions and results so all students – and particularly low-income students and students of color – are prepared for success in college, career and life. We work closely with policymakers, practitioners, funders and advocates to design and accelerate policies and plans that support strong systems, outstanding educators, engaged students and effective investments and organizations.

We are nearly 60 consultants who live in nearly 20 different states and work across the nation. We are educators, policy advisors, advocates and funders. We have served local, state and national clients in more than 40 states. We understand the complexity of public education – from the classroom to national policy – and know how to navigate it. We rely on our trusted relationships and deep knowledge to develop solutions that bridge the gap between visionary leadership and pragmatic implementation. We also are hard-working and light-hearted, passionate about student success and obsessed with quality and professional growth; these are just a few of the traits we encourage and cultivate at Education First. Our vibrant culture is built on our core ideals: original thinking, collaboration, entrepreneurialism, authenticity and fun.

We recognize that, in order to pursue our mission, we must study gaps and inequities, ask tough questions about structural racism and more deliberately engage diverse voices in problem-solving. Education First has a robust Race, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (RIDE) strategy to build our staff and organizational capacity to lead on issues of equity, and to increase diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the firm. We also have a deep commitment to, and growing experience with, helping clients elevate, interrogate and take seriously how they pursue equity in their work. To achieve our goals, we believe intentional development work must be done at three levels: 1) with individual staff on their own implicit biases and identity development; 2) at the organizational level to analyze and redesign systems that could otherwise mirror the inequities we seek to dismantle and to nurture our inclusive, vibrant culture; and 3) with our clients to ensure they focus on equity as an integral component of their work, from the stakeholders they engage in decisionmaking to the lenses they use to analyze their challenges.

Talented people are our most precious resource. We believe we have the best team in the country to support education leaders and advocates in advancing students and erasing pernicious equity gaps. We have grown significantly over the last five years and have plans to continue to expand and diversify our staff over the next few years. As a virtual firm we prioritize the experience of what it feels like to work here – combining excellence and fun in a diverse, inclusive culture, and nurturing the deep connections team members feel to one another and our mission. Our appreciation of the intersections of talent, culture, inclusion and connections is what makes working here different than working anywhere else.


About the Position:

To be successful in an ever-changing and complex world, today’s students must master rigorous, college- and career-ready academic standards and develop strong social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. We believe that both students and teachers require the knowledge, attitudes, skills and mindsets to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, communicate and collaborate effectively, and make responsible decisions. We also acknowledge that we need to create the learning environments that support student success and live out the values of diversity and inclusion in classrooms and schools. For years, schools have taught SEL skills with varying levels of intentionality. But today, more and more districts are supporting SEL as a focused strategy— not only to improve school climate and student engagement, but also to improve student learning.

Education First helps teachers, districts, charter management organizations and state leaders make this vision a reality for all students and tackle persistent inequities. Teachers must incorporate SEL strategies into their classrooms and schools must redesign core instructional programs to support teachers in this new work. However, programs alone, even when well implemented, may not be enough. That is why we support school systems, state leaders and foundations to design and implement smarter school and system-level strategies to manage support to schools across many dimensions of SEL practice, including instructional resources, professional learning and adult SEL practices, and assessments and measures.

Social and emotional learning is a growing practice area for the firm. Current projects include:

  • Reinforcing NoVo’s efforts aimed at increasing districts’ capacities to promote SEL for all students through the Collaborating Districts Initiative (CDI) and managing the SEL Innovation Fund, which aims to seed teacher-led projects and district-wide projects that foster social and emotional (SEL) skills in students in grades PK-12.
  • Managing and facilitating the learning community for The Wallace Foundation’s Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI), assisting grantees to strengthen, align and deliver strong in- and out-of-school SEL experiences.
  • Managing the Funders’ Collaborative for Innovative Measurement (FCIM), helping the funders leverage and coordinate the increasing interest nationally in “hard-to-measure” intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies through strategic collaboration. We also support a learning community among these funders, help to build greater knowledge and interest in the field, manage the day-to-day work of the collaborative, and facilitate the alignment of funder interests and investments.

The SEL Principal will possess broad, field-recognized, content expertise across a wide range of SEL areas and domains. S/he also may have deep expertise in a particular, narrow area or domain. The principal will apply advanced knowledge of current issues and trends in the field to advance new thinking and extend the firm’s reputation nationally in SEL. S/he will cultivate clients and in particular s/he will bring relationships with school districts and/or charter management organizations who want to design or redesign system-wide SEL strategy and/or implement for success. Principals at Education First must have a keen eye for quality of research, work product and service to clients and they are expected to manage, coach and develop team members to consistently meet our quality standard. The SEL principal will help position and market the firm as a leading thought partner to the SEL field. This is an exceptional opportunity for an exceptional person.

Position Responsibilities

Education First seeks a field-recognized SEL expert with district expertise to help grow the practice area and serve as a senior leader and strategist within the company. This individual will oversee development of and solutions for the firm’s clients, including school districts, charter management organizations, state agencies, foundations and nonprofit organizations. Ideal candidates are experienced executives who are recognized in the field as experts in SEL who have led in school systems, are seasoned managers and mentors, have a high standard of excellence for research, work product and service to clients, and an extensive, regularly-cultivated network.

This individual will be responsible to:

  • Advance the development and execution of Education First’s Social and Emotional Learning practice area strategy.
    • Implement and continue to inspire the vision for what the service offering is.
    • Deepen and refine our current SEL service offering to align with the firm’s vision.
    • Create a strategy that deepens our capacity to support our clients.


  • Lead the Education First Social and Emotional Learning team to design the emerging business line.
    • Lead a small, but growing SEL team.
    • Guide the development of materials that are important for representing and doing the work.


  • Sell mission-aligned projects to new clients.
    • Identify new clients, districts and CMOs with whom we should partner.
    • Manage business development planning and execution to meet our growth goals.
    • Build long-term relationships with clients around the nation.


  • Contribute thought leadership in public forums and to communication pieces.
    • Contribute and deliver content for firm’s website, policy papers, newsletters, op-eds, press releases and public speaking engagements.


  • Serve as accountable project leader for quality delivery of strategic SEL projects.
    • Manage consultants to set and monitor project work plans and drive the project to completion at or under budget.
    • Oversee production of project deliverables that meet our internal quality standard, including research plans, status reports, interim reports, technical reports, presentations, abstracts and manuscripts.
    • Mentor, guide and manage team members.
    • Coordinate regularly with the project manager and/or client to ensure project success, including budgeting, planning and regular reporting of actual time spent and costs against the contract, and evaluation


Experience & Qualifications:

  • Ideally 15+ years broad experience designing, leading or implementing SEL and/or related strategies in classrooms, schools, districts, CMO's and/or settings; additional experience in philanthropy, nonprofits and/or research a plus
  • Significant experience (3-5 years) in an executive position working in or serving school districts in SEL and/or related strategies; experience in senior level district roles leading the implementation of system wide initiatives can serve as a proxy for related SEL implementation 
  • Expert-level understanding of the breadth of the SEL field, research base, and related fields, including, for example, adult SEL practices and needs, student inter- and intra-personal competencies, mindsets, identity, cultural competence, science of learning and development, among others
  • Working knowledge of the state of SEL assessments and measures and their use
  • High level of credibility; seen as a leader of peers; strong relationships with thought leaders in the field; well-versed in SEL research, strategies and practices
  • Excels in understanding needs in the field, creating aligned vision and detailed strategy and leading a team to accomplish envisioned strategy
  • Demonstrated track record in and authentic passion for developing, motivating and mentoring team members, especially team members at different points in their careers and from a mix of diverse cultural identities
  • Creates equitable and inclusive practice area and project team cultures; contributes as a leader to the firm’s overall vibrant and inclusive culture
  • Strong existing network of innovators, entrepreneurs, school systems, technical assistance providers, thought leaders, and/or foundations et al., ideally with a track record of leveraging, cultivating, engaging and growing the network; experience fundraising and/or selling preferred
  • Outstanding eye for quality of research, work product and service to clients and proven ability to develop team members to consistently meet the Education First quality standard
  • Exceptional client relationship management and engagement skills
  • Exceptional project management oversight skills with a track record of leading teams to execute and deliver high quality results or products
  • Able to oversee multiple projects and budgets and motivate teams under tight deadlines
  • Able to identify and translate client materials/documentation into tools and products for broader field
  • Consulting experience a plus
  • Master’s degree, doctorate or Juris Doctor in education, public policy, public administration or business preferred

Who You Are:

  • Unwavering in your commitment to improving student learning and achievement and moving education systems beyond the status quo
  • A visionary and creative thinker with a strong commitment to redefining the student experience, particularly for low-income students of color
  • Highly organized and a detail-oriented self-starter committed to quality and results who also is highly collaborative
  • Proactive in anticipating and adjusting for unexpected barriers to success
  • Strong growth mindset; takes ownership of your own development and intentionally supports others to grow professionally
  • Flexible, resourceful, good-humored and enthusiastic about our fast-paced, results-oriented culture and virtual office environment
  • Energized by the nature of consulting, which provides continual learning opportunities, fresh challenges and projects, requires the ability to diagnose problems quickly and tailor appropriate solutions and offers a field-level and systems-level opportunity for impact
  • Leads from a place of self-awareness and collaboration, striking a good balance between confidence and humility
  • Strongly recommended for employment by peers, colleagues and team members

This position requires 25-40% travel for client engagements and business development.


Location & Compensation:

Education First is a virtual consulting firm headquartered in Seattle, WA. We seek to hire the most talented staff in the nation, regardless of location. Currently, our staff members reside in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Washington D.C. The location for this position is flexible, but must be accessible to a major airport. Education First offers a competitive salary and benefits package. For greater detail about the company, please visit our web site at


Education First actively engages our team to foster an environment of diversity, inclusion and equity and is a proud equal opportunity employer. We strongly encourage applications from candidates of all races, national origin, age, religion, creed, veteran or disabled status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.


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