Class of 2014
High School English & Leadership Teacher
Maple Shade, New Jersey

After earning a master’s in Educational Leadership and passing the administration PRAXIS, Jessica Zimmerman’s goal was to become a school administrator. “However, I knew that I needed something to set me apart from other potential administrators,” she says. “Restorative practices was the way for me to improve my leadership skills while also creating an inclusive classroom community.”

I saw the benefits right away.

As an IIRP student, Jess was able to immediately apply her coursework to her own teaching experiences. “I saw the benefits right away,” she explains. “I felt challenged. I always enjoyed what I was learning.”

The idea of online courses intimidated Jess at first. However, she soon realized that she and her classmates were able to build a real sense of community online, supported by their professors.

Jessica Zimmerman Small Classroom CircleThe classroom I always pictured.

As an alumna, Jess credits her IIRP education for helping her change the atmosphere and tone of her high school classroom. “It’s the classroom that I always pictured as a young teacher but didn’t know how to create: one that’s open, welcoming and engaging.”

Both learning and discipline have improved. What Jess learned made her a more empathic teacher, helping her meet the needs of her highly diverse population of students through enhanced relationships. “They feel a sense of community,” she says.

jessica zimmerman with teamI’m trying to make the world a more accepting place.

Jess is incorporating restorative practices into every facet of her life, from using circles when coaching her school’s field hockey and lacrosse teams to building relationships at own wedding. Jess made her wedding a restorative experience, using a “check-in circle” she learned at the IIRP. Giving every guest a voice, she was able to bring the bride’s and groom’s family and friends together to enjoy the celebration and one another.

In dealing with family, friends and strangers on the street, “I look at people differently now,” says Jess. “I understand that the way I respond to them affects their day. I’m trying to makes the world a more accepting place.”

Jess found the people she met in IIRP courses fascinating. “Go for the networking,” she says.

The social science of restorative practices attracts a network of committed professionals with shared goals to learn together. “I never would have had the opportunity to exchange ideas with such interesting people in such varied fields — criminal justice, social services. It really helped my ability to talk to people. It improved both my professional and my personal life.”