Remembering Former Dean of Bank Street School for Children Joan Cenedella

Beloved educator and former Dean of Bank Street School for Children, Joan Cenedella, GSE ’75, died on February 2 at the age of 86.

In 1970, Cenedella began her career at Bank Street as a teacher in the School for Children. During the mid-1970s, she received her master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education’s Teacher Education Program. Cenedella served as the Upper School Coordinator from 1979–1981, and then became the Dean and Director of Children’s Programs from 1981–1990. In September of 1990, she expanded her impact at Bank Street and became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the College. Students remember Cenedella for the positive impact she had on them, as evidenced by the growing number of heartwarming comments shared about her memorable legacy in the School for Children Alumni Facebook Group.

Former colleagues remember Cenedella as a passionate and constant presence for her students. Fern Kahn, Dean Emerita, Bank Street’s former Division of Continuing Education, and current Trustee, said, “Joan was a wonderful educator. She loved teaching middle school children. She also was a fierce advocate for them. Joan was there to help you when you needed help and she led a very wonderful satisfying life.”

Laura Guarino, GSE ’94, former teacher, Lower School Coordinator, and Associate Dean of Children’s Programs, School for Children, said, “When I think back to the time when Joan was head of school, the words that come to mind are integrity, passion for learning, community spirit, and optimism. Joan never forgot what it meant to be a classroom teacher. Her respect for children and teachers was at the center of how she led. She believed in the potential of young people, the influence of good teaching, and the power of progressive education. She cared about students personally and also as future leaders in our democratic society.”

To learn more about her work at Bank Street, watch this short film from 1974 featuring Cenedella that explores how a social studies curriculum evolves from children’s ideas and questions and how it develops other skills, such as reading, math, and language arts, or read her independent study from 1975 titled Learning Through Expressive and Representational Experiences in Social Studies: Eight-and-Nine-Year-Olds Study the Netsilik Eskimos.