Alumni Profile: Mel Motel ’11

Mel Motel Headshot

Founder and Director, Just Schools Project

For years Mel had been working with youth and with movements to challenge mass incarceration and build capacity for communities to respond to harm without imprisoning people. She was drawn to the MA in Teaching for Social Justice program because she wanted to explore the connections between education and incarceration. “I wanted to learn how both the act of teaching itself and the community of young people and adults in a school might have the potential for connection and transformation, rather than maintaining the status quo,” she says. “The program provided me with the tools to understand and transform systems that harm people and effectively teach about justice issues.”

Mel founded the Just Schools Project (JSP) in order to work directly with schools to rethink and change discipline practices. Through JSP, Mel trains teachers, administrators, and students in the frameworks and skills of restorative practices and how to make them work in a school setting. Restorative practices puts aside punishment in favor of building relationships, understanding the reasons why people hurt each other, and involving people most impacted by an issue to figure out solutions. Mel also teaches a course, “Community and Restorative Justice,” at the Community College of Vermont.