Creating Restorative School Cultures: Lessons from Laura Mooiman’s Napa Valley Experience

The room was abuzz with anticipation as Laura Mooiman, an American educational consultant based in The Netherlands, prepared to share her insights. With a decade-long experience in successfully integrating Restorative Practices and Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) in schools, Laura’s reputation preceded her, and the attendees knew they were in for an enlightening session.

Laura began by delving into her journey with the Napa Valley Unified School District. As the Project Director for the Wellness Program and PBIS, she spearheaded the initiative which remarkably resulted in all 30 schools achieving the highest school climate scores in California. This accomplishment was no small feat and bore testament to the power of integrating Restorative Practices with PBIS.

The core of Laura’s presentation revolved around the practical aspects of establishing safe, positive, and restorative school cultures that can withstand challenges and crises. She drew on real-life instances from Napa Valley’s journey, including the challenges posed by earthquakes, student suicides, wildfires, and even student protests. It was evident that the proactive approach of PBIS, combined with the community-building tools of Restorative Practices, created a resilient and adaptable school environment.

The audience was introduced to the foundational role of PBIS. It’s not just about managing student behavior but shifting the mindset of the school community towards positivity and prevention. Laura emphasized that without a strong PBIS foundation, schools would find themselves constantly in reactive modes, struggling to cope with behavioral challenges and lacking the capacity to manage the necessary restoration efforts.

Restorative Practices, on the other hand, provided the essential tools to foster community, ensure meaningful engagement with students, and, most importantly, repair harm when necessary. The integration of both approaches, as Laura illustrated, led to holistic outcomes where students felt more connected, safe, and understood.

Throughout her presentation, Laura did more than just share her expertise. She narrated stories of resilience, community-building, and transformation. Attendees were left with powerful visuals of school communities coming together during crises, be it a natural disaster like the Napa wildfires or the emotional turmoil following student suicides. These stories underscored the importance of a comprehensive approach to school culture and safety, which went beyond textbooks and pedagogies.

A pivotal point in Laura’s presentation was the importance of shifting mindsets. By moving away from reactive, punitive approaches and embracing proactive, positive, and restorative methods, schools can create environments where students and staff not only feel safe but thrive.

As the presentation concluded, it was clear that Laura Mooiman’s insights weren’t just based on theory. Her experiences in Napa Valley offered tangible, actionable insights that schools worldwide could adopt. The compelling blend of hard data, real-world anecdotes, and passionate delivery left a lasting impact on everyone present.

In retrospect, Laura Mooiman’s presentation served as a powerful reminder of the potential schools hold. By integrating Restorative Practices and PBIS, schools can become more than just places of learning; they can transform into nurturing communities that prioritize the well-being of their students and staff above all.