MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE RJ SOLUTION
We've been practicing restorative justice in schools since 2009, with a team that has conducted hundreds of restorative conversations and made restorative circles an everyday practice in our own schools.
Jen Kirksey’s prior experience as a police officer and Jen Gallegos’ Special Education Coordinator endorsement and experience with SED populations provides a unique and invaluable training dynamic in your school district.
CO-OWNERS & TRAINERS
Jen brings more than 30 years of unique experience where education leadership, management skills, and law enforcement intersect. She currently leads Connections Learning Center, Jeffco Public School’s only alternative middle school, a challenge with a lot of promising opportunities for a safe and structured experience. Jen had been principal of the 1000-student, multi-million dollar Dunstan Middle School campus for five years after a decade as assistant or principal in Denver-area middle and high schools. Her greatest and most lasting impact has been affecting change in discipline, behavior, communication, and relationships between students and teachers.
She has studied, practiced, and taught restorative justice for more than a decade. One of the many rewards of her work is watching the positive results of RJ practices significantly change the culture and climate of schools. A sought-after fixture at RJ-related conferences, Jen, with partner Jen Gallegos, has been called to implement RJ programs in school districts throughout the U.S.
“Seeing the walls built up by students turn soft and ultimately disappear is what drives me to continue the work of RJ.”
She began her career in law enforcement, as a 911 dispatch supervisor for the Anchorage Police Department before moving to the Lakewood Police Department. There she was an important member of the SWAT Team, serving as a first responder during the tragic events at Columbine High School in 1999.
Jen holds a master’s degree in education from Regis University and a bachelor’s degree from Alaska Pacific University in management, a principal’s license, and is currently pursuing an administrator’s license.
Jen currently serves as the Manager of Student Discipline for a large school district and is an active member of the State RJ Council in Colorado. In her role, she has implemented Restorative Practices in schools for the last 10 years, working at all levels as a teacher, dean of students, administrator, and elementary school principal. She also holds a director of special education license.
Jen plays a key role in supporting schools throughout Colorado in becoming restorative in practice and philosophy and has trained hundreds of schools and numerous school districts in best practices around discipline and the RJ philosophy.
“I get fired up when I hear from schools during their implementation journey about the successes they have seen with both individual students, adults, and the school community as a whole. I know this work is so important to our community, and these stories keep me inspired and determined.“
As a life-long learner, Jen is always searching for opportunities to learn something new. It should come as no surprise she holds several degrees including a masters of education from Regis University, and her undergrad work earned a BA in sociology along with a minor in business from CU Boulder.
MELISSA KARP, M.ED
Affiliate Faculty, Colorado Christian University
Melissa supports and evaluates students from the College of Education as they complete their fieldwork.
“Working exclusively with soon-to-be-teachers, who are so open to new ideas and who want to make school a positive experience for every child, is very refreshing and exciting work to be doing.“
Melissa is currently pursuing a specialist degree in mental health practices in schools from University of Missouri. She holds her M.ED in education administration as well as a MA in school psychology from the University of North Texas. Her undergraduate BA is in elementary education from the University of Florida.
Christine has been a trainer and facilitator with RJ Solutions for several years. Her work supports teachers in changing the way they look at learning, teaching, and discipline.
“Knowing that if you've changed just one educator's outlook on classroom management and student-level intervention--the potential outcome is thousands of students that I can positively impact.”
Christine is a Social Emotional Learning Instructional Specialist for Fort Bend ISD and is on the Board of Advisors for The Thinking Project.
As a first-generation college student, she earned her undergraduate degree in English Literature, a master's degree in School Leadership, and is working towards a doctorate in Education Policy.
SARAH BIXLER, M.A.
Dean of Students
As the dean of students, Sarah supports students finding their pathway to graduation and beyond. She also supports the school’s staff with classroom management practices and interventions. Her active collaboration with school staff, students, and the community provides meaningful alternatives and solutions to suspensions.
“Creating trusting and respectful relationships with students who need it most is why I wake up and go to work everyday.“
As a new mother, she is enjoying a newfound perspective as she watches her son interact with the world around him and sees life through his eyes.
Sarah earned her master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in educational leadership and special education administration and her BA in secondary education and history from Arizona State University.
KATHRYN ZALESKI, M.A.
As a social studies teacher, Kathryn models the practices of Restorative Justice as well as facilitates the trainings. Kathryn comes from a family of gardeners and as such, her work can be seen as cultivating the seeds of restorative justice in her school community. She loves facilitating RJ conferences between teachers and students and is always eager to incorporate new information and facts she picks up from her podcast sessions on government, politics, and history.
“The best part is when I ask students about what needs to happen to move forward and getting to hear their ideas of what they see as appropriate.”
Kathryn regularly attends the NACRJ Conference, participates in anti-racism training, CEA events, and is actively involved in the Longmont Community Justice Partnership.
Her education matches her love for travel to unique destinations and her fluency in the language of Macedonia. Kathryn earned her bachelor’s of science in secondary education social studies and holds a master in language, reading, and culture.
Trainer/Principal - Mt. Evans Outdoor Lab
A key proponent of Restorative Justice is conflict resolution. Ryan has been in the Jeffco Public School district for more than 15 years. In addition to monitoring mountain lion activity as part of his job, Ryan trains school staff to resolve conflict among students and peers.
“Seeing students experience life-changing moments at a residential outdoor education program is what keeps me going.”
Ryan is actively involved with the Outdoor Lab Foundation, a charitable organization located in the mountains of Colorado, and strives to give all students the opportunity to explore and experience subjects such as earth science, wildlife biology, astronomy, and forestry in a unique mountain setting. He is also a member of the Residential Outdoor Environmental Education (ROEE) organization and regularly attends conferences.
Ryan holds a BS in environmental science from Metropolitan University of Denver and a master of education, educational leadership from Regis University.