As a student, a mother, and a teacher, I have always believed that exquisite instruction matters more than anything else that happens in a school. It is so inspiring to be in the presence of an amazing teacher. I love watching a teacher light up about a subject. I love watching teachers push students to do the hard thinking for themselves. And I love learning from the individual style of each teacher. It is teachers who make a school great.

I see teachers as intellectuals, and I believe it is incumbent upon schools to provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate, to reflect, and to continually learn.

My favorite book in graduate school was Ken Macrorie’s A Vulnerable Teacher. Macrorie describes a teacher who taught “by love more than anything else. He was so much in love with English literature and with being a teacher. Everyone worked for him to the maximum of his capacity. One couldn’t let him down.”

Schools need teachers who teach “by love” – love for their subject, love for their students, love for the sacred work of shaping minds and nurturing souls. But such teachers can flourish only in schools that take instruction very seriously.

When we began Harlem Village Academies, we set out to attract the best and brightest minds. We have accomplished that – our schools are filled with the most brilliant, driven, fun, passionate teachers in the field. Together, we are building schools that inspire us to fall in love with teaching again and again each year.


Dr. Deborah Kenny was the founding principal of the flagship Harlem Village Academy. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Harlem Village Academies and author of Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential.