As founding principal of Springfield Renaissance School — an urban, high-poverty middle and high school in Springfield, Massachusetts — Stephen Mahoney achieved great success. Under his leadership, each graduating student from the school has been accepted to college for five consecutive years, and students have received $3.4 million in scholarships to continue their education. Although the decision to leave the school was a difficult one, rather than seeing his departure as a goodbye, Mahoney sees joining HGSE as a lecturer and associate director for the Harvard Teacher Fellows (HTF) Program as an extension of the work he did in Springfield.
“Coming to Harvard honors the students and families with whom I have been working and struggling these past 10 years,” says Mahoney. Besides, in coming to HGSE, there is an added benefit. “I get to keep my Boston accent,” he says.
Here Mahoney speaks about his new role and how his experience as a teacher and school leader will help get HTF off the ground.
What do you bring to HTF?
I hope to bring a very real sense of the practical side of “keeping school” to HTF’s program design, its course content, and its structured fieldwork. I also hope to use my principal perspective to forge productive partnership with schools, networks, and districts.
What does this new program mean for teacher education?
How we recruit, train, and support new teachers in high-needs schools is one of the central questions public schools have to answer if they are to regain their role as engines of mobility and democracy. Joining the faculty at HGSE is an opportunity for me to be on the ground floor of an entirely new way to think about, structure, and support teacher training and the key critical first years in the classroom. The Harvard Teacher Fellows Program, if we get it right, could very well become a model for the rest of the nation.
What is most gratifying about being a teacher educator?
Walking in to a former student’s classroom unannounced and encountering the thinking, compassionate, and productive learning community he or she has created based upon his or her work with me.
What about this next phase of your career are you most looking forward to?
Bringing outstanding young people into what I consider the world’s best work, learning from top thinkers on schools, joining the national conversation on teaching and learning, and stir fry lunches at Gutman Commons.