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Annie Facilitating Student Circle

Annie O'Shaughnessy, M.Ed.

Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director

I began teaching in 1990 and have since enjoyed a rich and varied career as an educator, writer and workshop leader in nonprofit, alternative, and therapeutic settings. In addition to 25 years as a circle facilitator for adults, I have also served as a writer and president of two non-profit organizations focused on supporting people to live with purpose, love and courage.

My dedication to Restorative Practices began with my experiences as a new teacher in 1990. I did not know it was called Restorative Practices when I worked collaboratively with students to explore the harm they did and support them to find ways to repair it, or when I gathered students in circles and passed a "talking piece" to share stories, ideas and challenges, or when I responded to disruption in the class with curiosity instead of judgement. All I knew was that students who usually walked out of class to roam the halls were staying in mine. Kids who were known as "bad" kids were bringing in their class projects to show classmates. And students from different sides of the "tracks" were working well in groups. I was excited and proud of my work. But in 1995 I left education because these restorative approaches were not welcome in schools and I had to hide the fact that I was holding circles and teaching students mindfulness techniques to self-regulate.

I began practicing Mindfulness in 1986 as a college athlete and then as a rock and ice climber, but didn't dedicate myself to a formal sitting practice until the ever-growing mountains of research made it impossible not to. A "Mindful Teaching" college course in 2012 dramatically improved my one-on-one work with highly challenging teens and improved my own life in profound ways. In 2014 a bike accident and resulting MTBI propelled my practice even further, as it was the only thing that improved my symptoms. The resulting changes in my life, health, and work led me to pursue a M.Ed. at Antioch University's Mindfulness for Educators program. (Visit here for the certificate portion of that degree here.) Responding to interest and requests from my colleagues, I began teaching other teachers about the power of mindfulness and restorative practices in and out of the classroom.

After a career as writer, editor and circle workshop leader I returned to education in 2006 as a counseling teacher at the Centerpoint School, a therapeutic school for young people unable to function in "regular" school. For six years I worked one-on-one with traumatized or highly challenged youth. These experiences along with the 180 hours of clinical training I received provided me with priceless insight into how to work with traumatized and anxious youth. In this work I was encouraged to use a restorative, relationship-based approach that separated the "deed from the doer" and treated every human in the building with unconditional positive regard. I developed the skill to set strong and fair boundaries in the face of unexpected behaviors, all the while communicating respect and care. At CTE Essex, as an English Teacher I focused my efforts on building a community of care in my classroom where everyone built the skill, capacity and motivation to actively engage in learning and to be able to name, acknowledge and repair harm.

In 2017, I became an independent consultant and quickly found myself busy throughout the state and beyond. I loved sharing the power of mindfulness and RP with educators but eventually I realized I needed to do more to support schools to become places where ALL youth and adult feel respected, heard, connected and safe. I applied for and was accepted into a year long program called Transformative Educational Leadership (TEL) hosted by Omega Institute. TEL gathered educators and leaders from across the country (40% of the global majority) to explore the intersections between mindfulness, SEL, Restorative Practices and Equity. It was during that experience that I started the habit each day of asking myself, "What power do I have and how am I using it."  It was this experience that empowered me to take the risk of starting a new organization that could do better work than I could as an independent consultant. 

Through many conversations with Nina Curtis, the idea was born for the two of us to create a collaborative organization that would be able to offer schools the evidence-based support needed to weave together all all the threads necessary for youth and adults to thrive: mindfulness, SEL, Restorative Practices, Trauma Informed Care and Equity. And so Partners in Restorative Change was born in 2021 with Camille Koosmann's and Lisa Bedinger's efforts and support from the Cotyledon Fund.  In January 2022, Nina chose to shift the focus of her life and so Lisa Bedinger stepped up to carry on as co-director and co-founder of Starling Collaborative, a name that better fit the breadth and spirit of our work. In July of 2022, Jessica Villeneuve joined SC to make a team of four.

In 2017 I founded the Holistic Restorative Education certificate program at Saint Michael’s College, and co-founder of Partners in Restorative Change (now Starling Collaborative) A deep love for educators and students and faith in the inherent goodness of our true nature drives my work.

I have two grown children and live with my husband and dog Molly in Underhill Center, VT.

Visit here with a list of Annie's CV (last updated 2019)

Published Essays, Chapters, Articles

Starting With a Pause: How Restorative Communication Transforms Schools: A full exploration of the P.A.I.R. Up! model for restorative communication, which was developed out of a need to move beyond "affective statements" as the primary tool for restorative educators. This chapter also makes a case for when NonViolent Communication is appropriate or helpful and when it is not.

Transforming Teaching and Learning through Mindfulness Based Restorative Practices: And in-depth, story filled chapter on the interdependence between Mindfulness and Restorative Practices. Specifically, this chapter makes a case for how educators restorative skills will arise naturally from a strong mindfulness practice and how the circle practice strengthens our ability to focus and attune mindfully.

Creating a Community of Care: A Holistic Approach to Teacher Wellness: Inspired by the rise in teacher burn-out, anxiety and depression after the pandemic, this chapter explores a model for teacher wellness that is embedded in what educators do WITH youth and WITH each other.

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