By Woo Han
“This is a place where education thrives, students feel cared for, and where change is not a scary thing because the entire community is there and they do things together.”
Adieu to Dr. Terarakelyan
March 3, 2017
FEATURE: The two year push to implement a Restorative Justice (RJ) program at VNHS is winding down.
When it comes to Restorative Justice, VNHS is now on its own.
The two year push to implement a Restorative Justice (RJ) program at VNHS is winding down.
Dr. Lucy Terarakelyan left her position here on Feb. 28, and the Restorative Justice (RJ) office was closed down.
Van Nuys High School was one of the 25 RJ demonstration schools in LAUSD that received support for a maximum of two years from the district.
Managing the program as well as overlooking the Student Leadership Support Club, Dr. Terarakelyan served at Van Nuys High School from Sept. 2015 to Feb. 2017 as the Restorative Justice Coordinator.
One of the most celebrated accomplishments during Dr. Terarakelyan’s tenure with RJ was reducing the number of suspensions from 15 in the 2015-16 school year, to just one as of March 1.
Working as an educator for nearly 23 years, Dr Terarakelyan received her PhD in education two years ago. Before she left for another position, she described her experiences at VNHS and her future plans.
What was your experience like at VNHS?
I cannot find the right words to describe the experience I had at VNHS. It was outstanding; it was completely unexpected in a way that you could do so much when everybody is involved in it—everybody is on the same page.
My experience just speaks volumes about the proof that change can happen when there is teamwork. Everyone is different but when we have a common goal, we could exceed even our own expectations and surprise ourselves.
I am shocked how powerful this community is because it doesn’t take too much effort. It’s not one person, it’s not two, it’s the entire faculty, staff, students, parents, campus aides, cafeteria workers, the entire community is together. This is a powerful place to be at.
What did you gain from your assignment at VNHS?
I was thinking to myself: I got my doctoral degree, what else can I learn, is there anything else for me to learn, and suddenly another learning experience opened up in front of me at VNHS.
This is a place where education thrives, students feel cared for, and where change is not a scary thing because the entire community is there and they do things together. Nothing is scary here. You could think wild, you can dream big, and it will come true because everyone is there right behind you to support you. That is amazing.
How is VNHS unique?
I’ve been in different schools and communities, but this place is truly one of a kind. You can build your entire career in this place by learning, teaching, growing and developing as an educator. This is a dream place for any educator. I had professional growth here and I learned not only about education but about life. During the difficult parts of my life this school was there for me every moment. It’s not only about education–it’s about humanity. You feel included, no matter where you come from, who you are, or your cultural background. It doesn’t matter. Just as Ms. Gardea told me, “The moment you step in at VNHS, you become a family member,” and I have felt just that way.
What are your future plans?
I have been given an opportunity to advance in my educational career and reach a wider audience to work with. I want to make some sort of change that will be beneficial towards our youth, educators, parents as well.