Founded by Janet McGarvey in the early aughts as the Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative with 58 Bay Area independent schools, the organization has expanded to Southern California and Central California and now boasts 140 member schools. Over the years CATDC has seen many changes, yet our transformational approach to professional development remains steady: whether you are a classroom teacher, an aspiring leader, or an experienced administrator, our programs provide you with the opportunity to develop to your full capacity and build sustaining relationships with peers from other schools.
Janet McGarvey is the founding executive director of the California Teacher Development Collaborative. She led and grew CATDC from 2000 to 2017. Prior to CATDC, she served as the Director of the West Coast Office of the Independent Education Services recruiting firm, and taught for many years at local independent schools. She is currently enjoying active retirement while also mentoring, coaching, and facilitating work with teachers and administrators. Janet is currently leading the Head of School search for SLS Preschool, and successfully conducted the Head of School search for San Francisco Schoolhouse, North Bridge Academy, and The Little School.
In celebration of 20 years of CATDC, we caught up with our founding executive director, Janet McGarvey. We hope you are inspired by Janet’s energy and enduring vision for this community of educators. She would always say, “we are better together,” and that remains true 20 years later.
What have you been up to since retiring?
As you might know, I moved to Carmel Valley soon after I retired. Well, I sort of retired. I have done some work consulting with schools in recent years and have led some searches but now I am eager to fully retire and devote myself to my many other interests. I have been working hard to improve the little property I purchased over four years ago and so far have built a barn and strong fences, remodeled my guest cottage, planted over 30 trees and many flowers, and made numerous repairs to this little place that was neglected for so long. I hope to do some rather extensive work on my house in the coming months. I continue to ride my horse and sometimes compete in Versatility Ranch Horse shows; when the time comes my horse, Piper, will live here with me and enjoy a much-deserved retirement. I have met many new friends and now have a loving partner to share my days with. Life is good! At the same time I miss my Bay Area circle of friends and fellow educators and the intense joy of learning together. The memories of our laughter and deep conversations are alive in me. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to share time with you and be part of your lives.
How were you drawn to teaching?
I was one of those: the kids who played school. It seems that I always knew that I was going to be a teacher. I loved learning of any kind but especially reading, so it was in keeping that I majored in English and began my teaching career as a middle and high school teacher of language arts and English. Throughout my long teaching career I had the good fortune to be mentored by some master teachers, and I soaked up any ideas and practices that I found helpful in improving my craft as an educator. Along the way, I did not aspire to a major leadership role, although I got involved in all aspects of school life and led various committees. I took great pleasure in knowing my students well and watching them mature, and I thought I would never leave the classroom. But after a few decades I began to feel drained, and I left teaching for four years. However, I never went far from education. I knew there was something else for me that was related but that didn’t involve the daily grind of paper grading! The pivotal moment came when my dear friend from graduate school, Coreen Hester, asked me what I would do if I could do anything. I told her that I would start an organization to help teachers get access to excellent professional growth experiences and to give local teachers the opportunity to share their craft knowledge with others. It seemed that through collaboration and sharing among local schools this could be done well. She enthusiastically agreed that the need was there, and the rest is history! Coreen and I enlisted the support of other school heads and the Collaborative was born. I suddenly became a leader as its first executive director.
What does leadership mean to you?
To me leadership means gathering others to work towards a common goal. In most situations that means being where the buck stops, articulating a vision and figuring out the means to achieve it, supporting those who are working with you, and being ready to take on many tasks, even the mundane ones. Some crucial aspects of leadership are knowing how and when to delegate, to be vulnerable and admit mistakes yet strong in one’s convictions and integrity, and to be transparent at every opportunity. To me leadership is an opportunity to make a difference, to continue learning, and to find joy in helping the team achieve its goals. My compass has always been empathy, and it has helped keep me on course for my entire career.
What does learning in community: across schools and roles, mean to you?
Learning in community is at the heart of CATDC. We all have so much to share with one another, whether it is best practices, difficult challenges to work through, or just friendship with others who are dedicated to children and teaching. People outside of education are often surprised to know how lonely it can be as a teacher or administrator even though the rewards are many. I have seen over and over how sharing the professional journey with colleagues from other schools can be an essential part of sustaining and growing one’s career as an educator. Personally, as the director of the CATDC, I got to learn so much that would have made my early teaching career even more fun: how to assess student work in new ways that were so much better for the students as well as for the teacher, how to see and understand signs that a student needs extra support, how to design learning experiences for students and colleagues that are differentiated, how to create kind and respectful community in the classroom, how to listen better and advise with confidence. The list goes on and on. By learning from and with others, so much is possible.
What advice would you give educators today?
As for giving advice to new teachers or administrators, I would encourage them to access the community of peers that is available to them both locally and online. The challenges educators face today are so different from when I began teaching; the use of technology has changed dramatically and of course the pandemic has shifted everything. But just as real estate is all about location, so teaching and learning is all about relationships. That will always be true.
What is your hope for CATDC for the next 20 years?
My hope for CATDC for the next 20 years is the same as it has been since I left 4 years ago. It is that the organization will remain true to its mission to serve teachers and allow them the opportunity to grow over time. I am delighted to see how CATDC, through the efforts of my wonderful successor and the entire team, as well as through the strong support from the Board, has continued to innovate and flourish. I have taken immense delight in seeing so many of the early participants in the Collaborative’s programs step up to design and lead new programs and workshops and to forge new career paths under the large umbrella of education. At the same time, I take enormous pleasure in seeing teachers continue to flourish in the classroom as they hone their craft using new research and pedagogies. It has been easy to step away, knowing that this once one-person organization has grown in all the right ways and is so capably led. I am deeply, deeply grateful for the hard work so many people did along the way with generosity and commitment; they truly built the Collaborative from the bottom up, and they deserve our recognition and gratitude.