Less than two years after the unexpected passing of Glendale High School teacher Olivia Macaulay, friends, colleagues and peers gathered to add to the educator’s legacy via a naming ceremony.
Her old classroom, No. 4313, was christened the Olivia Macaulay Restorative Practices Center on Wednesday as about 25 people listened to how the room will be utilized.
“Everybody fell in love with the room, and it’s great to build a community,” said Mary Mason, Glendale Unified’s executive director of elementary education. “We talked about how restorative practices is about building community first and foremost.”
Macaulay’s center includes a giant 40-seat circle, bean bags and a futon, while inspirational quotes, suggestions and art adorn the walls. Teachers and students can sign up to use the center by contacting Glendale High teacher Lara Suri.
“I was just like, ‘This is the most beautiful thing we could have done at the school to keep her memory alive,’” said Suri, an English teacher and restorative practices coach. “We were all very affected by her loss as a staff. I feel like this room allows us to feel like she’s here with us still.”
Glendale High principal Benjamin Wolf unveiled a plaque at the room’s entrance during the naming ceremony, which was catered by the Glendale High bistro, while Suri gave a restorative practices seminar.
“The center naming just seemed to fit perfectly with Olivia,” Wolf said. “She was beloved here, and we started this restorative practices work just after she passed away. It was so closely aligned to what she stood for, it just made sense.”
She had survived breast cancer only two years earlier and was traveling through Europe when she was hospitalized with pneumonia and was then informed by doctors that she had a lung embolism. She returned to Los Angeles on July 4 and passed away eight days later.
Macaulay taught for 22 years and began working at Glendale Unified in 2002. She was named the district’s Teacher of the Year in 2012.
“I had a program for at-risk teens,” Suri said. “I was in charge of providing a sort of literacy/homework support help class. A lot of my students had Olivia as a teacher, and she was just really, really compassionate, caring, and she understood.”
A year ago, Suri began training in restorative practices, which favors non-punitive conflict resolution.
This past fall, Suri was given a period to “build up” the program, and at the beginning of this year that time was expanded to two periods, which allow her also to coach teachers.
“Restorative practices has two goals,” Suri said. “The main goal is for us is to build community within the school, for all students to feel a sense of belonging, respect and care and to give them a voice and a chance to be heard.”
Suri added, “The second part of it is, ‘How do I take ownership of my breaking this community and repair the harm that I’ve done in a healthy way instead of being punished for it.’”
As part of restorative practices, students often gather into circles, where aggrieved parties talk about their issues and feelings, find resolutions and develop a contract or promise to avoid making the mistake again.
As restorative practices grew at Glendale High, so too did the need for a main room for circles.
Suri was tasked with fixing up a restorative headquarters at Glendale High, and Macaulay’s old room was selected as the site.
The effort proved bittersweet, as Suri said she struggled to throw out some of her friend’s possessions in the process.
Two weeks ago, however, Suri said she was given a green light, of sorts, as Macaulay visited her in a dream.