Teachers College Mourns Kathleen Tolan | Teachers College Columbia University

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Teachers College Mourns Kathleen Tolan, Reading and Writing Project Deputy Director

Kathleen Tolan was Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project
Kathleen Tolan was Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project
Kathleen Tolan, Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) and before that a classroom teacher at P.S. 125 in Harlem, has passed away at age 53.

Lucy Calkins, TCRWP Founding Director, said that Tolan, a Teachers College alumna, oversaw the Project’s annual institutes, led think tanks, mentored hundreds of staff developers and was an indispensable part of its leadership team.  

“We are all just devastated,” she said. “For the past 20 years, Kathleen, Laurie Pessah and I have been at the helm of the Reading and Writing Project. Kathleen was a brilliant, unbelievable teacher – a force of nature who allowed nothing to get in the way of doing what’s right for teachers and kids. One day with her and people would remember her forever. She was honest, tough and personified excellence, and her students were among the most successful in the city. She was also enormously compassionate. When one former student was in jail, she regularly drove to be there during visiting hours. When another lost a leg, she donated money for a prosthesis.”  (Click here to read Calkins’ remembrance of Tolan and to share memories of your own.)

"Kathleen was a brilliant, unbelievable teacher – a force of nature who allowed nothing to get in the way of doing what’s right for teachers and kids. One day with her and people would remember her forever."
—Lucy Calkins

Tolan co-authored several books, including The Literary Essay: From Character to Compare/Contrast; Building a Reading Life, Following Characters into Meaning, and Navigating Nonfiction. She led TCRWP’s professional development at P.S. 6 including when that school was under the principalship of Carmen Fariña, now New York City’s Schools Chancellor.

“Kathleen’s commitment to joyful, lifelong literacy garnered the respect of educators throughout the City and the nation,” Fariña wrote in a letter posted to the TCRWP site. "As a former principal and superintendent, I knew Kathleen as a leader’s leader. During the time she worked with my school, we benefitted greatly from her wisdom and expertise. The best legacy for Kathleen’s work is to ensure that all of our students become skilled readers, writers, and thinkers—and develop a lifelong love of reading.”

Those wishing to honor Tolan’s memory are encouraged to support the Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund. Click here to make a gift using a major credit card. Checks should be made payable to Teachers College, Columbia University, and indicate the Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund in your correspondence. Mail checks to: Linda Colquhoun, Box 306 Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, or contact her with questions at 212 678-3679.

Published Monday, Dec 5, 2016

Kathleen Tolan was Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project
Kathleen Tolan was Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project
Kathleen Tolan, Senior Deputy Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) and before that a classroom teacher at P.S. 125 in Harlem, has passed away at age 53.

Lucy Calkins, TCRWP Founding Director, said that Tolan, a Teachers College alumna, oversaw the Project’s annual institutes, led think tanks, mentored hundreds of staff developers and was an indispensable part of its leadership team.  

“We are all just devastated,” she said. “For the past 20 years, Kathleen, Laurie Pessah and I have been at the helm of the Reading and Writing Project. Kathleen was a brilliant, unbelievable teacher – a force of nature who allowed nothing to get in the way of doing what’s right for teachers and kids. One day with her and people would remember her forever. She was honest, tough and personified excellence, and her students were among the most successful in the city. She was also enormously compassionate. When one former student was in jail, she regularly drove to be there during visiting hours. When another lost a leg, she donated money for a prosthesis.”  (Click here to read Calkins’ remembrance of Tolan and to share memories of your own.)

"Kathleen was a brilliant, unbelievable teacher – a force of nature who allowed nothing to get in the way of doing what’s right for teachers and kids. One day with her and people would remember her forever."
—Lucy Calkins

Tolan co-authored several books, including The Literary Essay: From Character to Compare/Contrast; Building a Reading Life, Following Characters into Meaning, and Navigating Nonfiction. She led TCRWP’s professional development at P.S. 6 including when that school was under the principalship of Carmen Fariña, now New York City’s Schools Chancellor.

“Kathleen’s commitment to joyful, lifelong literacy garnered the respect of educators throughout the City and the nation,” Fariña wrote in a letter posted to the TCRWP site. "As a former principal and superintendent, I knew Kathleen as a leader’s leader. During the time she worked with my school, we benefitted greatly from her wisdom and expertise. The best legacy for Kathleen’s work is to ensure that all of our students become skilled readers, writers, and thinkers—and develop a lifelong love of reading.”

Those wishing to honor Tolan’s memory are encouraged to support the Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund. Click here to make a gift using a major credit card. Checks should be made payable to Teachers College, Columbia University, and indicate the Kathleen Tolan Memorial Fund in your correspondence. Mail checks to: Linda Colquhoun, Box 306 Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, or contact her with questions at 212 678-3679.

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