On Tuesday, May 2, over 300 guests gathered for the Bank Street Celebration, the College’s signature benefit designed to celebrate the community’s many contributions to the field of education and raise funds to support its vital work. Held annually, the Bank Street Celebration—formerly the Annual Dinner—showcases the profound role that education plays in building a better society.
This year’s event, Reimagining Classrooms, Reenvisioning Community, was held at Gotham Hall in midtown Manhattan and honored Phoebe Boyer, President and CEO of Children’s Aid, and Matthew Gross, Founder and Executive Chair of Newsela, for their significant contributions toward building a world where all children can thrive. Their inspiring work, which spans several decades, embodies Bank Street’s commitment to making a difference in the lives of children, teachers, and families.
The evening kicked off with a celebratory cocktail reception in Gotham Hall’s Mezzanine, which offered spectacular views overlooking the opulent Grand Ballroom. After mingling over refreshments and hors d’oeuvres, guests—many of whom were educators from all corners of the field—made their way into the ballroom to begin the evening’s program.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was the School for Children’s very own Leela Kumar, a current 9/10s student who captivated guests with her humor and quick wit as she appeared on screen in the guise of a television news broadcaster providing live coverage throughout the event.
To kick off the evening’s program, Victoria Hamilton, Chair of the Board of Trustees, shared introductory remarks before welcoming Bank Street President Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ‘00, to deliver a compelling speech about what makes a Bank Street education unique.
During his remarks, Polakow-Suransky relayed an anecdote about the Bank Street approach to teaching and learning from Dawoun Jyung, an alumna of Bank Street’s Math Leadership program. He spoke of the first time she experienced what it was really like to be present as a mathematician during her experience as a student at the Bank Street Graduate School of Education.
“She learned that math is not just a body of knowledge that she had to memorize,” said Polakow-Suransky. “It’s about patterns and relationships, it’s developmental in nature—it’s a series of connected ideas building on each other. At Bank Street, Dawoun was engaged as a whole person, building her identity as a mathematical thinker through exploration, experimentation, and problem-solving.”
He continued, “Now, Dawoun brings that approach into her racially diverse classroom in Queens, investing in her students and changing how hundreds of 6th-graders see themselves.”
In his speech, Polakow-Suransky also touched on some of Bank Street’s recent work, including the development of Design Works High School, a new public high school co-designed by Bank Street and Pratt Institute that is opening in Brooklyn this fall. The school’s approach will harness a vision that promotes design-thinking to help students solve real-world problems and provides them with hands-on experience in design-related careers like architecture, urban planning, software and graphic design, and more.
“At a time when many schools across the city are struggling with under-enrollment, the inaugural class at Design Works High School is already full with a waiting list of 230 students,” he said. “This demand is rooted in our work inviting young people, families, and community leaders into a process that imagines a totally different kind of education in which our students will be empowered to design the future they want to see.”
Polakow-Suransky closed with a call to make a Bank Street education accessible to all: “Bank Street’s child-centered approach is an engine for innovation and learning. Demand is rising for the work we do. Historically, it’s been viewed as a luxury to get a Bank Street education. It’s our mission to change that. Every educator and every child deserves a Bank Street education. With your help, we will help meet this moment.”
Next, guests enjoyed dinner before hearing a beautiful vocal performance by Bank Street School for Children’s Upper School choir featuring special guest singer Solea Pfeiffer, best known for her role as Eliza in Hamilton. The choir captivated the audience with its stunning rendition of “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone.
The evening continued with inspiring words from the event’s honorees. First up was Matthew Gross, who was introduced by Sadie Granet-Beach, current 13/14s student in the School for Children. As founder and executive chair of Newsela, Gross has led the company—which provides engaging, leveled content to support students’ reading growth—from inception to over 500 employees and 40 million registered teachers and students. His 25-year career, which began as a Teach for America corps member, also spans education policy and practice, nonprofit and for-profit entrepreneurship, and product development and distribution.
Next, Sockona Doucoure, a senior at Harlem Village Academies and participant in Children’s Aid’s youth leadership programs, introduced Phoebe Boyer, president and CEO of Children’s Aid, who has worked tirelessly to optimize the organization’s impact on the lives of children, youth, and families. City & State honored her on its 2018 Above & Beyond list of 30 remarkable women, and selected her and nine other nonprofit leaders for its 2019 Responsible 100 list of people who are improving their communities and making transformative change.
Boyer came to Children’s Aid after a decade at the Robertson Foundation, which takes a targeted approach to supporting critical national issues, and previously spent 12 years as the executive director of the Tiger Foundation, also founded by Robertson, with a mission to break the cycle of poverty in New York City.
Following the honorees, featured speaker Shokry Edaly, GSE ’16, took the stage to share his former experience as a graduate student in Bank Street’s Math Leadership program. Today, Dr. Edaly is a faculty member in Bank Street Graduate School’s Progressive Leadership program, preparing our next generation of leaders through approaches centered on transformative and reflective practice, action research, empirical approaches to efficacy, applied learning architecture, experiential learning, and the grounding of leadership in social and education justice outcomes.
“A Bank Street education has never been about the individual pursuit of titles or accolades and has always been about celebrating the value and interdependence of people,” said Shokry. “Since its founding, the Bank Street community has served as an institution of co-conductors who, in caring for the light of each other, have collectively lit the roads to our tomorrow—preparing the world for the most brilliant sparks among us—our children.”
The Bank Street Celebration culminated in a paddle raise led by auctioneer CK Swett, who engaged the crowd with great enthusiasm and humor and generated donations from guests. Funds raised will help Bank Street continue to promote its powerful vision of education—based on more than a century of experience—in ways that meet the needs of today’s learners.
Planning for the event was supported by Bank Street’s Development and Relations Office (DARO), Bank Street Celebration co-chairs Kristen Kane, Bank Street Trustee and Executive Vice President of Noggin; and Charles Bendit, Bank Street Trustee and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Taconic Partners. The celebration amassed over $990,000 in donations, which will help the College continue to create meaningful change in the field of education and transform the lives of children, educators, and communities.
“I am so grateful to all our friends and supporters, especially our Board of Trustees and honorees, for their generosity in helping us achieve our fundraising goal,” said Marcela Hahn, Vice President of Development. “It was a remarkable evening and a true celebration of educators, from principals to early childhood teachers. A special thanks to colleagues across Bank Street who were part of our success. We were thrilled that so many alumni from both the School for Children and Graduate School could join us.”