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University of New Mexico and Albuquerque Public Schools Partnership Boosts Restorative Practices for Students of All Ages 

If you ever needed a perfect example of how the University of New Mexico directly feeds into the community, you don’t need to look further than the College of Education and Human Sciences (COEHS).

The new Restorative Practice Partnership between COEHS, the District Teacher Residency Program (DTRP), and Garfield Middle School is creating a fundamental pipeline of restorative practices from children, to future teachers, and to the classroom. 

“Our partnership with Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is underscored by experiences like this for our Teacher Residents,” DTRP Director and COEHS Professor Marjori Krebs said. “By providing opportunities for our future teachers and future principals to learn the power of Restorative Practices from the Garfield Middle School students and teachers provides them with an excellent foundation for leading their own classrooms and schools.”  

Garfield Middle School Restorative Justice Practitioner Erin Chavez and COEHS Special Education Professor Layla Dehaiman have spent years getting this program official. It began when they both met through APS; Chavez was diving deep into the art of restorative practice as an administrator, and Dehaiman was working to get the ball rolling in the district.  

 “I was primarily focused on providing support for students that have behavioral challenges and eventually worked my way into finding restorative practices and social-emotional learning,” Dehaiman said. “I worked at APS doing restorative practices, and that’s where Erin and I met. This work has been really important to us for over seven years now. When I came over to UNM, it was really important for me to carry on that connection.” 

After learning together, the pair began sharing their knowledge with teachers one by one. Educators who had been in their routine for years had to ask: What does restorative justice in practice look like? 

“The way I like to define restorative practices, especially within the school setting, is moving away from looking at the rule that was broken and the consequence that should follow and shifting our mindset to the relationship that was harmed and how we repair it,” Chavez said. “It’s really about giving people the opportunity to get what they need. What does everyone need to feel safe, to feel comfortable, to feel ready to welcome that person back in? It really focuses on the needs of the whole community, not just on one person.” 

Restorative practices are an application that has always been exhibited more or less by certain teachers across the decades but has recently gained traction in schools since the COVID-19 pandemic. Restorative practices in schools, by definition, is a theory that focuses on building relationships and when there is a breakdown in those relationships using mediation and agreement rather than immediate punishment. 

“It’s about building relationships and then repairing harm when harm is done. That can be harm that we as educators do to our students, or it could be harm between two students. It really is about looking at the larger relational ecology of a school community and seeing relationships, knowing that there are always going to be some breakdowns in those relationships. Then we have those tools to repair the relationship,” Dehaiman said.  

As Dehaiman transitioned to her role at UNM, she and Chavez were determined to not only maintain their restorative practice efforts but expand them. 

“We’ve stayed in touch the entire time. I thought it was really important for our teacher residents to have access to hearing directly from kids about restorative practices. We connected teacher residents and then just continued it and really made it grow this year as I’ve moved over to UNM as a faculty member. Other people may understand and have some foundational knowledge of restorative practices, but Erin and I have been deeply entrenched in this work,” Dehaiman said.  

Read the full version of this story on the University of New Mexico’s website. 

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