Testimonials

Mary Skillings is aptly named: she is skilled in teaching and practicing restorative justice, in school community and the juvenile justice system.  Mary’s experience in all three of those areas provides her with a robust set of experiences. A trainer needs to have been trained in all restorative processes (check) and needs to have had experience so as to be able to tell her own stories in training (check).  But mostly a trainer needs to be able to teach (double check).  Mary teaches with compassion and passion. She is indeed her name.

Nancy Riestenberg
Author, Circle in the Square: Building Community and Repairing Harm in School
March 31, 2017


During the summer of 2016, I had an opportunity to attend a three-day professional development Restorative Practice seminar through my district and facilitated by Mary Skillings.  I was familiar with some restorative practice work and had used some of the language with my students, but was looking forward to a more in-depth experience.

I left that three-day experience feeling rejuvenated and empowered.  I decided I was going to remove the tables from my room and we were going to sit and learn in Circle in my classroom, and we do.  Every day I start by ringing the chimes, reading a short story and passing the talking piece.  My high school students check in with how they are feeling that period and answer a question of the day.  The sense of community I have been able to create has been amazing and students report that they are getting to know their classmates and me way better than in classrooms that do not use Circle.  

Mary’s seminar last summer inspired me to write my master’s thesis on using Circle and student engagement.  I am looking forward to attending more seminars and will be encouraging my colleagues to attend as well.  Teaching in Circle has completely changed my classroom in ways I never thought possible!

Jessica Stewart
Social Studies Teacher
Osseo Senior High
Osseo Area Schools ▪ ISD 279


Mary Skillings brings a thoughtful, gentle energy to her work as a circle trainer.  She truly embodies the spirit of deep listening and empathy, and in this way she teaches to and through the core values of all of her participants.  Her knowledge about the foundations of circle processes adds a rich depth to her work, as well.  It has been a pleasure to collaborate with her.

Erin Dunlevy
Director at Restorative Practice NYC
Restorative Justice/Equity Coach at New York University
2016


In 2007 Mary developed and taught a graduate level course, “Teaching from a Restorative Paradigm” In which I was a student.  The course was eye opening, challenging, and helped remodel my teaching style.  Today, four years later, whether preparing a lesson or working through a situation with a student, Mary’s authentic, compassionate, approachable, and concrete restorative practice is my guide. I can say that having been her student has made me a much better teacher and person.

Mary is an effective teacher. She is approachable, well prepared, engaging and passionate about her role as an educator.   Mary does not shy away from obstacles but rather communicates directly, clearly and with an open mind to learning and giving.  I have witnessed her successes with at risk students. Her impact on lives is profound. Mary’s core beliefs of inclusion, dignity, and human potential for change in the face of barriers, inspire others to be their best selves.

Debra Johnson
Duluth Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
2011


Mary Skillings worked for Men as Peacemakers, as our Restorative Justice Coordinator from August 2005 to July 2009.  As a result of Mary’s work Men as Peacemakers has one of the strongest programs in Minnesota having served more than 700 juveniles since its inception.

One of the keys to our success was Mary’s skill as an educator. She developed our restorative practices training program to increase the number of well trained volunteers we needed to participate in, and facilitate, circles. The training was intensive and filled with both experiential and intellectual learning. Its success was related to Mary’s ability to change the training to meet the needs of a group or individual. Consistently, evaluations from participants noted this and the fact that the training had opened their eyes to new ways of working with people. From this start Mary went on to design, develop and implement a series of other restorative trainings. The most successful of these was one developed for teachers and schools.

Frank Jewell
Executive Director of Men as Peacemakers, 2000 – 2012
Duluth, Minnesota
2012