Hemanth Venkataraman Bio:
Hemanth Venkataraman, a.k.a. Mister V, began his career in education in 2002. Upon graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Computer Science and Physics, he joined the New York City Teaching Fellows and became a mathematics and computer science teacher at Louis D. Brandeis High School in Manhattan. While working to build his pedagogical skills as a classroom teacher and while earning his Masters Degree in Secondary Education at City College of New York, Hemanth took over as Brandeis' Coordinator of Student Activities. In this role, Hemanth discovered the power of a positive school culture and climate that seeks to unite the entire community and celebrate student and staff achievements. Hemanth spearheaded cultural programming at the school, from school dances and multicultural celebrations to Black History Month ceremonies and spoken word poetry slams.
Having fully bought into the uplifting power of a supportive school culture, Hemanth stepped out of the classroom for a few years in order to more intimately study the impact of chronic, traumatic stress on student learning and development. He became a certified instructor with SKY Schools, a program that combines mindfulness practices and techniques to expunge stress with strategies to manage emotions and make healthy life decisions. Having taught the SKY Schools course to students in New York and New Jersey and having visited schools that had experienced significant culture turnarounds in New York and Chicago, Hemanth teamed up with a former colleague to write a charter school proposal for a school with a unique approach to school culture.
Unity Preparatory Charter School of Brooklyn was founded in 2013. Hemanth served as the Director of School Culture and Climate for Unity's first several school years and oversaw all aspects of school culture, including the disciplinary policy, special events and extra-curricular activities, and staff professional development around classroom management and trauma-informed pedagogy. Hemanth became a certified instructor of Teaching with Love and Logic and coached classroom teachers to develop supportive relationships with students while using empathy and logical consequences to maintain productive, engaging, and joyful classroom environments.
Hemanth also coordinated Restorative Practices at Unity. He taught and modeled classroom community building circles and assisted teachers in their implementation. He led professional development regarding how best to use informal restorative practices both as relationship building tools and as responses to harm. He facilitated formal restorative conferences as an alternative to traditional, punitive consequences and was able to lead the school in reducing out of school suspensions by over 80% from its third year to its fourth year.
In 2018, Hemanth transitioned from leading a single school to devoting his full energy toward supporting schools that wish to establish supportive, nurturing, trauma-informed environments that are best able to serve all students. He obtained certification from the International Institute for Restorative Practices to offer professional development on introduction to restorative practices, facilitating classroom circles, and facilitating formal restorative conferences. Today, he offers training on implementing restorative practices in schools, bringing mindfulness into the classroom, teaching character development to middle and high school students, and teaching with the 9 Essential Skills of Love and Logic. Hemanth's aim is to help educators leverage the power of social connection and a strong sense of community to enable all students to reach their true potentials as learners. Hemanth offers ongoing support to educators who seek to reach not only those students who are most proactive or well-adjusted in their school settings, but also those who have been impacted by traumatic stress or who have been disillusioned by exclusionary disciplinary practices that sustain the school to prison pipeline. In addition, Hemanth aims to expose educators to effective strategies that allow adults to maintain a structured learning environment while simultaneously coaching students to learn from their mistakes, express empathy, and repair harm.