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.
Lori Cohen has worked in education (both public and independent) for two decades as a teacher, instructional coach, and school leader.. She is currently supporting schools in a range of capacities: as an independent school consultant and coach, as a consultant with East Ed, and as a Senior Associate for Bright Morning Consulting. In all her work, Lori actively engages in equity and social justice, striving to offer access and pathways for all school stakeholders to thrive.
Briefly explain your leadership and/or career journey (what brought you to education, explain a pivotal moment or person, where are you now?)
I went into education because it was an access point for me—and because I saw how education can be a pathway for students to learn about themselves, about the world, and as a way to transform systems. I was the first (and only) in my immediate family to go to college, and I wouldn't have done so without the support of my teachers. I had an English teacher in high school who opened my eyes to the power of words, books, writing, and storytelling. I read stories of those whose experiences were different from mine, which made me realize how little I knew about the world and systems of oppression, and how literature has the power to transform the world.
In 1999, I started my first teaching job at my former middle school, teaching 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies. Between 2000-2005 I taught high school English and Humanities at a public school, coached rowing at my college alma mater, and eventually returned to grad school for my masters degree in education. In 2005, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and worked at The Bay School of San Francisco for 14 years, serving in roles ranging from classroom teacher, to instructional coach, to Dean of Faculty. During my time at The Bay School, I met so many educators who were pivotal in my leadership journey, from collaborative colleagues to site leaders at Bay, to peers from schools across the state of California.
Janet McGarvey, who was the executive director at the BATDC, was a pivotal part of that journey for me—as she provided me a platform to lead adult learning with new-to-independent-school teachers across the state. Her belief in my leadership potential was instrumental in my leadership journey. I currently serve as an education consultant and the Developer of People and Programs at Bright Morning Consulting.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership, like mindfulness and like equity work, is an ongoing journey—more verb than noun. Leadership is about self knowledge and the kind of work on self that allows one to see broadly, to understand systems while also identifying, collaborating with, and growing people into their fullest potential. Leadership is also about modeling a way of being, and it's about determining who you need to be in various contexts. For me, leadership is about being accountable for my ongoing learning, growth, and development so I can skillfully contribute to the ongoing learning, growth, and development of those I work with.
What does learning in community: across schools and roles, mean to you?
Learning in community is the most optimal way to grow. While the United States puts a primacy on the individual, collective learning and action produces more meaningful and equitable outcomes for all learners. Learning in community is a complementary enterprise; people of different identities, roles, and backgrounds can come together and offer their strengths, perspectives, for a more generative experience.
How has CATDC impacted your professional journey?
CATDC was instrumental in my leadership journey and as a leader of adult learning. From leading CATDC programs like Teaching Foundations, Transformational Coaching, and Aspiring Women of Color Administrators to participating in programs like Women + Leadership and Leadership 101, I developed the skills and habits of a transformative leader. Alongside my work at The Bay School, I was actively involved in the CATDC and collaborating with both founding Executive Director, Janet McGarvey, and current Executive Director, Lisa Haney, through ongoing conversation, program development, and facilitation.
How has CATDC impacted your teaching and learning practices?
CATDC provided me with community—reminding me that I don't have to do this work alone. Through community and collaboration, I was able to develop the skills and habits that undergirded my leadership and my support of teachers and staff members at my school site.
How has your learning through CATDC impacted student learning?
Ideally, I hope that classrooms are spaces where students can engage using multiple modalities, where their identities are valued, and where the expectations are high and achievable.
Anything else you would like to share?
I can't imagine my professional growth journey, particularly in the past decade, without CATDC.