Teach Lawrence: Transforming Education, Transforming a City

Nov 11th, 2012 | By | Category: Archives, BLTN Teachers, Fall-Winter 2012, Uncategorized

Jineyda Tapia speaks of the genesis of Teach Lawrence, an outgrowth of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network and Andover Bread Loaf partnership.


An initiative organized and led by members of the Lawrence Bread Loaf Teacher Network, Andover Bread Loaf, and young people and community advocates who are powerful forces for educational change.


  • Achieving equity for underserved students
  • Engaging youth who are talented, capable, and eager to serve as agents of change in their community and schools

Connections: Teach Lawrence, Lawrence BLTN, ABL, and BLTN

Public school teachers from Haiti; New Orleans; Lawrence, Massachusetts; New York, New York; and Columbia, South Carolina, drove to Bread Loaf from Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, to Ripton, Vermont, to celebrate the 25th annniversary of the Andover Bread Loaf Writing Workshop, an outreach program of Phillips Academy and the Bread Loaf Teacher Network. The July 2012 ABL/BLTN meeting began in the Blue Parlor at the Bread Loaf Inn, where Emily Bartels and Django Paris welcomed the group to Bread Loaf and several faculty members spoke about their Bread Loaf courses. Later that afternoon, about 50 members of the Bread Loaf community and ABL visitors met for a reception, music, and lots of talk. In the Barn that evening, the Bread Loaf community heard about ABL activities that are happening in U.S. urban sites, internationally, and at various Bread Loaf campuses.

The spotlight was on Teach Lawrence, a program that is a dramatic alternative to the “turnaround” approaches widely used in urban settings. What follows are a few statements about Teach Lawrence’s principles and practices.

Teach Lawrence: Transforming Education, Transforming a City

What if we could mentor a generation of students and train them to become teachers in order to lift our city up? That’s the vision of Teach Lawrence, a program that focuses on developing new teachers from Lawrence, Massachusetts, and supporting those who are committed to teaching here. The greatest resource for turning Lawrence around lies within the community itself. Our goal is to develop youth leaders, support and sustain them as they go on to attend college and graduate school, and encourage them to come back to Lawrence to lead their schools and their community. Together we can transform our schools and our city.

The Powerful Voice of Youth

Thirteen thousand students attend public schools in Lawrence; yet they have no say in discussions about the future of education in the city. Andover Bread Loaf (ABL) and the Lawrence Bread Loaf Teacher Network’s (LBLTN) approach to education—democratic and profoundly student centered—starts by giving youth in Lawrence the opportunity and ability to express themselves. Encouraging self-expression with a focus on social justice and improving education in the city, and youth flourish and shine, eager to take on leadership roles. We’ve already seen the success of this approach as graduates of Bread Loaf programs are now returning to Lawrence as teachers, community organizers, and leaders of nonprofit organizations. Andover Bread Loaf is creating Teach Lawrence to expand upon and accelerate that process.

A Transformation Pipeline

Teach Lawrence is run by ABL and the Lawrence BLTN (LBLTN), a 25-year-old network of teachers, youth and youth organizers, parents, community organizations, educational, and cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1987, ABL and LBLTN have reached tens of thousands of young people through our writing workshops and student programs. Hundreds of teachers have participated in Andover Bread Loaf professional development programs, and many of its graduates have gone on to teach in the Lawrence public schools and elsewhere.

Scaffolding for Life—and Leadership

A multi-generational approach to mentoring lies at the heart of the ABL philosophy, and will be central to Teach Lawrence. Youth mentors are called “Writing Leaders” in ABL programs.

Kindergarten through grade 4
Young Lawrence students participate in workshops on writing, art, math, and science. The students are mentored by writing leaders and teachers of all ages—middle school, high school, college, and adult—demonstrating that education is a collaborative venture.

Middle School Junior Writing Leaders
Teacher training begins with middle school students who work with younger students. Middle school students also have the opportunity to run programs and conferences for their peers.

High School Writing Leaders
Cross-age tutoring is key to the ABL approach to teaching, learning, and leading. By training high school-aged students to teach writing to their younger peers, Andover Bread Loaf enables them to be true collaborators in their own education. High school students are actively encouraged to consider college and career, including teaching.

Student Retention
Throughout their schooling, Lawrence students are receiving mentoring support from their peers and teachers. This regular exposure to role models, including former students who’ve graduated and returned to Lawrence to teach and lead, serves as a powerful force for student retention. By sharing and experiencing the success of their peers who’ve returned to “Teach Lawrence,” Lawrence students are motivated to replicate that success themselves.

College Writing Leaders
College students from Lawrence continue to receive mentoring and support from the LBLTN even while they are attending college (in fact, mentoring is especially important at this stage given the loneliness and isolation that students from high poverty, minority districts often experience when leaving home). College students are encouraged to return to Lawrence regularly to reflect upon and talk with peers and mentors about their education. During the summer college students participate in and run LBLTN programs.

Graduate Level
Fellowships are available to support Lawrence students who wish to pursue teaching as a profession. Students are encouraged to attend summer graduate programs that have a philosophical approach similar to that of ABL. Such programs offer an additional advantage in that they allow teachers to begin their careers and work towards a graduate degree simultaneously, putting into practice the ideas and methods that they’re learning.

Teach Lawrence: A Force for Change and Leadership

In its 25 years, ABL has seen the powerful transformation that can result when youth are empowered to teach and lead. Our efforts and their impact are limited only by the size of our budget. Our summer programs for students are filled to capacity year after year, and demand for our graduate fellowships far outstrips our ability to provide them. The programming upon which Teach Lawrence is based already exists—much of it is in operation. We are working on securing additional funding to enable ABL to vastly expand the number of students reached and the number of teachers trained and leaders produced, thus transforming our schools and our city in a way that no other approach to educational reform can do.

For more on Andover Bread Loaf’s partnership with the Bread Loaf Teacher Network, visit  Andover Bread Loaf’s website at  http://www.andover.edu/breadloaf or e-mail Lou Bernieri. Photos from the 25th anniversary event are available here


2 Comments to “Teach Lawrence: Transforming Education, Transforming a City”

  1. Kim Masterson says:

    What important and inspiring work, Jineyda. I think the kinds of conversations you describe between professionals about what works in classrooms and what makes students find and express their voices (which increases test scores too) are the discussions we should be having everywhere – empowering for students and teachers alike. We missed you in Asheville this summer!

  2. Scott Christian says:

    This looks like a terrific program. Congratulations to Lou Bernieri and all of the teachers who have worked so hard to make this work.

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