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Our Story

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Our Story

Read Our Blog
Our Story2021-01-02T14:54:27-05:00

Why Did We Begin?

Why did we begin this organization with community? Why do we continue to stand proudly with our community?

Our Founding

“Ms. Miller, if you commit to empowering more student leaders like you did with us, we will commit to leading in our own ways in the school. We’re with you.”

My student Santana’s words, spoken as I transitioned from being his 6th grade teacher to a school leader, continue to ground me in the power of student leadership development in our classrooms. Learning from and working alongside talented teachers and administrators over the past ten years, I have translated my belief in the transformative power of our students into a program that develops educators who see our students as community leaders and partner with them to achieve system shaking results that combat the disempowerment of our students in urban schools.

Why Do We Exist?

Teacher, Student, and Community Partnership

Due to the systemically flawed belief that a silent, compliant classroom is the highest level of success possible in urban schools, many of our city’s strongest teachers – who know in their gut that more is possible – struggle to envision and build transformative classrooms that move beyond compliance to a place of authentic student empowerment.

Over the past 10 years, I have coached talented educators who know there is another level of student voice, empowerment, and ownership possible in classrooms throughout their city. Within this context, I sought a practical, concrete way to reenvision and restore all that is possible in classrooms that are assumed to be “good enough.”

Students deserve spaces where class discipline is a learning experience rather than a punitive punishment, and where each student is set on a path of empowerment as they define the term. Restorative Practices in Action seeks to answer what it takes to make this a reality for students and teachers- and then achieve it in partnership with teachers, students, and community members.

The Problem

…systemically flawed belief that a silent, compliant classroom is the highest level of success possible in urban schools…

The Goal

Move beyond the complacency of compliant students to a place of authentic student empowerment.

The How

Cultivate student voice, empowerment, and ownership…via teacher, student, and community partnerships.

Our Core Values

Practice Proximity

We get close with our communities. We spend real time in our communities. We are humbled to walk with the powerful people in our communities and believe this is the only way we can co-construct solutions that actually work.

Model Integrity

We model integrity by sharing our progress and areas of growth transparently with our schools and broader community. We ensure they have the structural power to offer actionable feedback that holds us accountable.

Exude Joy

We seek to find the joy in our work and build from this foundation. This does not mean we are always happy: this means that we believe in the power of our students and communities so deeply that joy is the natural manifestation of that belief.

Honor Strengths

We honor the leadership that lives in our students, teachers, and community members. We actively look for the qualities that make them strong and build from that foundation of assets rather than deficits.

Create Collaboration

Dominant culture values competition. We don’t. We value transformative collaboration because we believe this is essential to contextualize our work and build something system shaking and sustainable together.

Our Timeline

September 2013

The Journey Begins

We started our journey with two high school special education teachers on the Southside of Chicago. Megan and Andrew, two Teach for America teachers, agreed to participate in a new type of teacher coaching: one rooted in empowering students as the primary goal.

September 2014

Momentum Grows

Teachers heard about the work that was happening, and they wanted in. Growing to include 8 special education teachers across seven Chicago schools and 4 community partners, we took all we learned in the first year to pilot a structured cycle of community-based learning for teachers, now known as the 3C Cycle of Teacher Learning. We met in a Southside coffee shop every month, working alongside each other to study Restorative Practices theories and co-construct the tools that our RPIA teachers use today. Our meetings always went late into the evening…because our enthusiastic teachers never wanted the collaboration to end!

September 2015

Seeing the Impact

Members of the pilot RPIA Cohort stepped up as RPIA coaches and began creating RPIA cohorts with more teachers in their schools. Our students reached groundbreaking levels of leadership and academic achievement in our classrooms, and this inspired our teachers to keep growing. Nearly 90% of our RPIA teachers were staying in the classroom year after year, citing RPIA as a key reason why they continued when so many of their colleagues left the classroom. When our work was recognized by the International Institute of Restorative Practices as an innovative and impactful way to integrate the philosophy of Restorative Practices in urban schools, we realized we were officially on to something!

October 2019

Moving to Philly

Our founder returned to her home city of Philadelphia, carrying with her the voices of students and teachers who gave her a charge: turn this program into a full-fledged organization that has the capacity to impact an entire city of teachers and students. With their voices in her mind, she spent a full year in deep conversation with community partners, school leaders, and teachers in Philadelphia. She was determined to honor the strengths and the hopes of our teachers and students in Philadelphia by developing partnerships long before the first RPIA teacher joined the pilot cohort of the city.

August 2020

Founded in Philly…Focused on Student Leadership

We now have our RPIA Pilot Year Cohort in Philadelphia!

With 12 teachers representing 5 schools in West Philadelphia, we are proud to walk alongside these incredible communities as we build our RPIA community in the city.

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