Pamela Cantor

Ashoka Fellow
United States,
Fellow Since 2013

Citation

This profile was prepared when Pamela Cantor was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
A practicing child psychiatrist for eighteen years, Pam was trained to look for recurring and predictable patterns among presented symptoms, and to design solutions that could address each of the contributing factors behind seemingly “disordered” behavior.

Pam recognized that trauma inflicts predictable challenges to the learning environment. In each case, the most disruptive students absorbed the majority of teachers’ and administrators’ time and imperiled other students’ ability learn; teachers were not trained to meet students’ behavioral or emotional needs; and administrators were overwhelmed by a culture of failure they didn’t know how to repair.

Pam developed a sequenced intervention designed to help schools confront the symptoms of trauma by building lasting improvements in student support, teacher skills, and leadership capacity. Through a combination of bottom-up and top-down strategies, she sought to translate known practices in the medical field into language that educators could easily act on. By partnering with school districts to embed Turnaround for Children principles in teacher development standards and practice, codifying what works, establishing clear metrics and accountability tools, and advocating for clear policy changes at the federal level, Pam is out to ensure that every school is equipped with the tools and strategies it needs to facilitate effective teaching and learning.

The result is a delivery system that goes beyond mere service provision to tackle at scale the debilitating impact of poverty inside schools. To date, Turnaround has partnered with 77 schools in Washington, DC and New York City, and is working closely with the Department of Education, members of Congress, and high-profile district leaders to move today’s education reform debate beyond teacher accountability, to establishing conditions for whole-school change.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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