James Butler

SEL Mindfulness Specialist, Austin ISD

James Butler is the Founder of Mindful Classrooms, an organization that travels the world educating schools about how to sustainably implement trauma-informed and equity-centered mindfulness into their daily routines, climate and culture. He is also the Social Emotional Learning Mindfulness Specialist for Austin Independent School District. James uses his experience of practicing mindfulness to help him deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD to promote the importance of educator self-care. He has a Masters of Education and 18 years of experience in public education. In his 14 years as a classroom teacher, he taught mostly Pre-K and Kindergarten in Austin ISD and spent a year as a volunteer HS teacher in Namibia. In 2014, he was named Austin ISD’s Teacher of the Year.

He is the author of Mindful Classrooms: 5 Minute Daily Practices to Support Social & Emotional Learning and co-author of Coloring Book and Reflections for Social Emotional Learning, created with a local artist, both of which are published by Free Spirit Publishing. James has a 200-hour community yoga certification from Amala Foundation.

James has many passions, including playing baseball and basketball, listening to music, and being a huge Cleveland sports fan. One, however, stands out above the rest: his passion for maintaining connections with his former Pre-K and Kindergarten students. Although many of them have graduated and are starting careers, his oldest former students, many of whom are Black, have long inspired him to use social justice as a driving force in his work. Using this lens, he uses mindfulness as a powerful tool to address the racial inequities that have always existed in our district and our community. James takes pride in mentoring his former students, whether it’s a phone call to discuss a hardship, celebrating a graduation with their family, or meeting up at Plucker’s to eat wings and watch basketball. Even though James is an educator and mentor, he acknowledges that he learns just as much from his students, if not more.