Eighteen years ago, I was a young teacher and a student myself. I had grown up believing that I knew two things about myself for absolutely sure: I loved learning, and I was going to become a Broadway actress. I was blessed with countless amazing teachers, both in my academic life and through my pursuit of voice and theater. Those teachers became my heroes, and still to this day, I think about and talk about them often with my own students. The older I became, the more I wanted to emulate them, to be able to make subjects come alive, both for students who already wanted to be there and those who were not yet fully invested. I remember watching the impact these extraordinary educators had on my classmates, especially the resistant ones, and I was nothing short of inspired. And so, teaching became my backup plan. I now look back at my younger self and laugh because I cannot imagine a reality in which I did not end up with teaching at the center of my life. However, unlike so many people with similar stories of life taking them in a different direction than they had anticipated, I do remember the year during which my mindset changed and my backup plan became my number one passion, a passion that remains just as strong today as it was almost two decades ago.
From the moment that my reality shifted and I embraced the fact that teaching was not just something I felt pulled toward but truly something I believed was my vocation, I knew that I was joining a flawed system. Countless cracks existed in the foundations of the world of education, already deep and problematic, by the time I started teaching. I knew, perhaps even more acutely because of my youth, that students were not being properly served. I wanted to find and actively sought out ways of doing better. It was my hope to be the kind of teacher I had witnessed change students' outlooks from apathetic to engaged, but I also was faced with the ever-growing sense that this was not the priority of the world I had joined. From my earliest days in teaching, I was not satisfied with checking off boxes and moving through the curriculum at the same pace regardless of who sat in my room from year to year, class to class. The writing was on the wall: it wasn't working. But it seemed, despite knowing better, the national decision had already been made . . . just get through and do it anyway. And so I searched for administrators to work under who not only recognized the flaws in our system but had dedicated themselves to fixing them, slowly but surely, in their corners of the universe. Just like the inspirational teachers I had had before them, those administrators' voices remain always in my head and heart, especially loud on the hardest days, reminding me that even when our efforts feel like a tiny shout in a vast darkness, the echoes of that cry can have enormous effects.
Eighteen years ago, a dream was born. Someday, someday far, far in the future, I hoped to start my own school and to make it a place where I could ensure an entire staff the freedom to give each child in our care exactly what they needed, in the time when they needed it; a place where educators could both know and do better with full support and enjoy the unbelievably rewarding experience of watching a student fall in love with learning. I dreamed of a place where all students would be welcome, where all learning styles could be accommodated because we would not subscribe to an erroneous one-size-fits-all approach to education. In my fantasies, this school would return to the basics that were missing, increasingly so as the years have gone on, in modern education. We would bring back universal phonics instruction, explicit comprehension, grammar, and writing training, hands-on math, multi-sensory learning, continuity between the grade levels, a realization of individual learning styles, cursive, and data-driven methodologies. Mostly, I dreamed of a place where students who both think and learn outside the box could be celebrated, not forced into conformity, a place where passions would be encouraged, our expectations would be as high as our level of student support, and a place where students felt a strong sense of self-efficacy, born of successes that were uniquely and powerfully aimed toward their own dreams for their own futures.
Over the last eighteen years, the dream has only grown. Over those years, I watched the foundational cracks grow deeper, regardless of which state I was teaching in, regardless of what socioeconomic group of students I was serving. I watched as fewer and fewer students entered the world of adolescent education even liking learning much less loving it. I witnessed the best of my colleagues leaving the field completely because, after decade upon decade of fighting the system and going against the grain, they were exhausted, defeated, and too sad to continue what felt like a futile attempt at creating change. During those years, I also watched the arts be increasingly defunded in school systems across the country. Even as a strong student, there were years in my own education when the arts were what saw me through, and I watched with a front row seat as arts instruction became a special treat rather than an integral part of the curriculum, despite knowing how critical this area of education is for the formation of a child's brain. Over those eighteen years I also met many amazing educators who shared my concerns, my visions, and my passion. I often leaned on these people for support, and I would frequently say, "Someday I'm going to open my own school." They would respond, "Someday, call me." Despite it being my dream, these conversations always felt highly hypothetical, and "someday" felt very far away.
And then Covid hit, and the world of education, already teetering on a dangerous precipice, fractured even further, even faster. So many students slipped through the enormous cracks, and I watched a sense of despair settle over even the most positive and dedicated educators. However, it was not until I, myself had a near-death experience with Covid that I woke up and realized that my concept of "someday" needed some rethinking. Much like what happened in my mental shift eighteen years ago, the shift that created the dream to begin with, I began to question. What was I waiting for? What was stopping me from making "someday" TODAY? Students need help now, not "someday." My own future, that of my colleagues, and - most importantly - that of the students could be so much improved by making this dream a reality now rather than waiting.
In April of 2022, Canterbury Brook Academy was born. It may be the fulfillment of my dream, and yes, I am proud to call myself the Founder of this beautiful school, but this dream would never have been achievable without the support of the many, many educators I had worked with over the years, the ones who had said to "call them" when that "someday" happened. I called. They answered. They came. I know how lucky I am, and I will work every day to show them how much I appreciate them and their YESES. I have the honor of being the face of CBA, but a face is nothing without a body, and this team of teachers you see here in our classrooms make up the body of our school. Without them, this would be impossible. Never question their dedication to your children; educating your children is the fulfillment of our collective dreams.
Naturally in forming Canterbury Brook Academy, I wanted to return to and honor my own roots in bringing the arts back into the forefront of a child's educational experience where I firmly believe they belong. Creating a fully incorporated arts program as part of an already pretty revolutionary academic format posed a challenge that my entire team was dedicated to taking on together. We connected with educators of excellence in each of the arts fields, and we were blessed yet again to be greeted with YESES and enthusiasm and effusive passion. The level of positivity your children are surrounded by as members of the CBA family is extraordinary. It permeates all corners of our building and it emanates from every staff member; it is contagious, and we hope to spread it for years to come.
I want to thank you, also, for sharing your children with us because, without them, this dream would never be realized either. A school full of dedicated educators with big goals is just a building unless you fill it with students sent there by parents who believe in the program and want their children to experience what it has to offer. Your YES is equally appreciated, and we are honored to have the gift of your support, your trust, and most of all, your children's education.
It is with great joy and appreciation that I welcome you to our "someday" today. Thank you for joining the Canterbury Brook family. From here on, new dreams will be born: the dreams of our students, your children. May we work together for years to come in order to help them achieve these dreams. This school is proof that teamwork DOES make the dream work. We are so excited to have you on our team.
With sincerest gratitude and excitement, Kelly Alexandra Trotta Founder; Head of School