March 30, 2023
An RPIA Teacher is a transformational teacher. The kind of teacher every student deserves.
When this school year started, a year weighed down by seemingly insurmountable odds-an international pandemic, searing racial tension, and daily changes to school policy- I was honestly uncertain about how our RPIA teachers would cope. Piloting our first year of RPIA programming in Philadelphia at the start of the school year, I looked at 12 teachers through a laptop screen and wondered how we would manifest our mission in the midst of the storm.
We cultivate the leadership of students in urban schools by developing a cohort of top-performing educators on a mission to re-envision and restore all that is possible with student voice, ownership, and empowerment in the classroom.
That is our mission. It is why Restorative Practices in Action exists. And our teachers all understood the charge. They understood, even before knowing just how much upheaval the year would bring, that it was our responsibility to show this city and each other just how much our students can do as leaders.
And so we began our work together in September. Bracing for all of the unknowns, our RPIA Teachers stepped into online learning with students living in homeless shelters, weekly instructional shifts with students who have visual impairments which preclude them from accessing any images on a screen, and hybrid instruction for double their usual amount of students in light of school staff resignations. In the midst of every twist and turn, all of our RPIA Teachers held firm to the same foundational belief: our students have the power to lead academic spaces and, when provided with the opportunity, will rise to the occasion in ways that transform the way they see themselves as leaders.
This belief brought something into their classrooms that no one would have expected this year: unprecedented academic success. Ms. Worsely began to push her shy high schoolers to lead poetry discussions, Ms. Washington cultivated time for her 2nd graders to affirm each other rather than antagonize each other during math class, and Mrs. Jones redesigned reading instruction based on restorative growth-mindset strategies; these belief-based actions brought growth that took entire schools by surprise.
As of this month, 75% of our RPIA Classrooms have seen marked student attendance increases, 80% of our RPIA Classrooms have the highest academic achievement scores in their schools, and one of our RPIA Teachers, Mrs. Obozian, was awarded the elite Distinguished Teaching Award by the Philadelphia School District. These results are not by chance. These results are because a group of phenomenal educators acknowledged the year’s challenges but refused to let anything stand in the way of their students’ growth.
They understood, even before knowing just how much upheaval the year would bring, that it was our responsibility to show this city and each other just how much our students can do as leaders.
In a year where so many thought student learning was impossible, RPIA Teachers proved just how much their students could accomplish and restored all that was possible with student voice, ownership, and empowerment in their classrooms.
Appreciation is not a big enough word. Thank you is unbelievably insufficient in light of what they did this year. What our RPIA Teachers accomplished with students will impact our city for years to come. I stand in awe of our educators and am unbelievably proud to celebrate our first RPIA Philly Cohort as this historic school year draws to a close. Well done, teachers. Well done.
Dedicated to our inaugural RPIA Philadelphia Teacher Cohort: