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Kate Quarfordt
Kate Quarfordt is an educator, writer, theater director, artist and mother. Founder and director of the musical theater program at Bronx Preparatory Charter School, Kate encourages young people to engage with the arts as a direct pathway to deep, transformational learning experiences grounded in the powerful stories that connect us all.

As a member of ASCD’s Commission on the Whole Child, Kate has worked to craft and support a nationwide initiative to shift the conversation about education toward a broader definition of achievement and accountability that promotes the development of children who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

Kate’s formative teaching experience was working with young adult international students in New York City in the weeks directly after 9/11. Tapping into the power of language and creative expression to help her students make meaning from their personal experiences gave Kate a taste of the transformational possibilities of teaching and learning. She continues to explore creativity as a catalyst for potent experiences of learning and healing, both in her work with middle and high school students in the South Bronx as well as in her own artistic life.

Kate holds a double BS in visual art and theater from Northeastern University and an MA in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia. She is the recipient of the John Fanselow Scholarship Award for outstanding creativity in teaching. Her students have been nationally recognized in speech, oratory, writing and acting; many have received full college scholarships and gone on to major in the performing arts and arts education. The musical theater program at Bronx Prep produces student-directed work and full-length musicals involving hundreds of students, parents, teachers and community members at every level of production.

Kate’s writing can be found at Newwork magazine and on ASCD’s Whole Child Education blog. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, son and dog.


Entries by Kate Quarfordt

A Lantern Floats in Brooklyn: A Mandela Tribute My Kids Will Never Forget

(3) Comments | Posted December 9, 2013 | 7:33 AM

Just a few hours before I heard the news of Mandela's passing, I was struggling to write about a contentious, emotionally-charged charter school co-location hearing that took place recently in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene. I'm not especially prone to frustrated outbursts, but the writing was going badly, and...

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Keepers of the Story: Young Theater Artists Thrive at Irondale

(0) Comments | Posted October 23, 2013 | 9:17 AM

"Being a brilliant storyteller is different from just being a raconteur," says Jim Niesen, co-founder and director of Brooklyn-based Irondale Ensemble Project, looking up from the photocopied text in his lap at the actors gathered around the script-strewn table. On his left, several adult Irondale actors nod in...

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High-Stakes 2.0: Letting Kids Run the Show

(2) Comments | Posted August 12, 2013 | 8:56 AM

"Oh my god, you're the playwright? It's soooo amazing to meet you!"

Brian -- my former theater student and star of the production of Les Miserábles I co-directed with students last year in the South Bronx -- fights through the crowd in the lobby of Atlantic Stage 2 in Manhattan....

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Broadway in El Barrio (and The Bronx): For a New Generation of Actors and Audience Members, In The Heights Hits Home

(0) Comments | Posted March 11, 2013 | 12:56 PM


Flashback to early last month:

It's 8:30 PM on a cold February night in Washington Heights. The huge crowd outside of the United Palace Theatre is anxious about missing the opening number of tonight's one-night-only In The Heights...

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Is Piano Class the Key to Public School Music? Working Individually as a Group May Be the Answer

(5) Comments | Posted March 4, 2013 | 4:15 PM

It's 2:25 on a wintry Tuesday in a classroom in the South Bronx. So far today, Dr. Geoffrey Kiorpes has taught 63 private piano lessons. By the time the day is over the total will be up to 85. Since school started on August 28th, he's racked up 9,945.

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Celebrating a Decade of Creative Learning and Student Leadership in the South Bronx (Video)

(0) Comments | Posted February 15, 2013 | 8:21 AM

Ten years ago I was in a trailer behind the church on Webster Avenue in the South Bronx where my school used to rent classroom space, staring at the bored, glazed over faces of the kids in the first theater class I had ever taught. Those straight A's I was...

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As War Horse Closes on Broadway, Its Lessons Live On

(10) Comments | Posted October 28, 2012 | 10:41 PM

How many theater teachers does it take to make a 3-foot-tall brown paper puppet walk across the floor?

At first my two teammates and I think we have it handled, but then our puppet starts misbehaving. Our goal, which sounded simple enough at the start, is to get a...

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Million Hoodie March, Victor Hugo Edition: Les Miserábles in the South Bronx

(4) Comments | Posted April 17, 2012 | 2:11 PM

It's a Tuesday after ninth period and I'm walking down the hallway of my South Bronx school toward what looks unmistakably like a fight. A tight circle of high school boys are gathered around two other boys on the floor outside of the classroom where I teach theater. One of...

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'Guys and Dolls' in the South Bronx: Learning to See the (Real) Value of Arts Education

(2) Comments | Posted June 27, 2011 | 4:16 PM

A few days ago I got an email that changed everything.

It's been a full month--and a seemingly endless succession of graduations, end-of-the-year recitals, awards ceremonies and fundraising benefits--since the kids I teach in the South Bronx put on our school's annual spring musical, the 1950's classic, Guys and Dolls....

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Countdown to 'Guys and Dolls' in the South Bronx, Part 3

(0) Comments | Posted June 3, 2011 | 1:05 PM

2011-06-01-photo19.JPG In case you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of our 100-day countdown to opening night of last week's performance of "Guys and Dolls" in the South Bronx. What follows is the saga's final chapter:...

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Countdown to 'Guys and Dolls' in the South Bronx, Part 2

(1) Comments | Posted May 16, 2011 | 2:24 PM

By the end of Part One of our 100-day countdown to opening night of Guys and Dolls at Bronx Prep, 30 percent of our cast members -- including the talented 12th grader who plays Sky Masterson -- are on the verge of being kicked out of...

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Countdown to 'Guys and Dolls' in the South Bronx

(2) Comments | Posted May 10, 2011 | 1:05 PM

After eight years of making theater with urban teenagers and witnessing how challenges can be turned into fuel for creativity, I know that Orson Welles was onto something when he said that "the true enemy of art is the absence of limitations." That's all well and good, but I'm pretty...

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Students Direct, Drama Ensues: Lessons in Leadership

(7) Comments | Posted January 30, 2011 | 2:13 PM

"I can't do this, Ms. Q. These kids hate me," says Ruth, my 11th grade theater student, as she presses her forehead to the wall in the corner of the art room and sighs.

When my colleague Andrew Simon and I teamed up with Ruth and several other high...

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South Bronx Hanukkah

(2) Comments | Posted December 8, 2010 | 12:21 PM

"Wait--what? I thought you were Buddhist, Ms. Q," says Simone, a talented 9th grade member of the theater program and speech team I coach at my South Bronx school.

"Nope," I say. "I do a lot of yoga, but that doesn't automatically make a person a Buddhist. Technically, I'm Jewish."

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What my High School Students Can Teach Ed Reformers

(15) Comments | Posted November 3, 2010 | 6:45 PM

"Cut!" hollers Sahirah Johnson, an 11th grader at Bronx Prep, the fifth through 12th-grade school in the South Bronx where I teach theater. The actor she's working with, a seventh grader named Maria who has never acted before, sputters to a stop mid-sentence and looks down at her fingers.


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When Kids Own Education

(11) Comments | Posted October 7, 2010 | 1:12 AM


"What do we love?" asks 17-year-old senior Tiffany McLarty, her face shining under the florescent lights in the parking lot.

The eleven teenagers surrounding her reply in unison:

"We love to speak."

It's 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Three...

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The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Dropping Knowledge on Capitol Hill

(1) Comments | Posted August 2, 2010 | 2:05 PM

2010-07-31-kateoncapitolhill4.jpg I'm no stranger to burning the midnight oil in a hotel room the night before a big speech. But usually I'm in coach mode, helping the kids on the Bronx Prep Speech Team get ready to...

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The Heart of Teaching and Learning: The Kids Want Kale

(4) Comments | Posted July 26, 2010 | 4:54 PM

The children at Bronx Prep are clamoring for vegetables. Not fries soaked in hot sauce from the Chinese take-out across the street from the school on Third Avenue in the South Bronx. 2010-07-26-veg1.jpg Not ranch-drenched iceberg lettuce from the Wendy's down...

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The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Becoming a King

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2010 | 12:50 PM

This is the second in a series of posts about putting on Rogers and Hammerstein's classic musical The King and I with a cast and crew of Black and Latino youth at Bronx Prep Charter School.

It's 11:30 on a Friday night and I'm in a...

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The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Cultures Collide as "The King and I" Comes to the Bronx

(0) Comments | Posted March 31, 2010 | 11:24 AM

Room 201 is packed with sweating kids. The youngest are in fifth grade, the oldest, twelfth graders on their way to college in a few short months. Outside the fogged-up windows, 2010-03-31-IMG_4088_2.jpgthe students who are not auditioning for the spring musical The...

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