Dr. Tony Recasner
Chief Executive Officer, Agenda for Children
Education: Walter L. Coen Senior High School; bachelor’s degree in psychology, Loyola University; master’s and Ph.D. in psychology, Tulane University
Family: Daughter, Leah
Mentors: Father Hacker Fagot, SJ, a Jesuit priest; and Chris Wilson, a professor from graduate school, both deceased.
For educator Tony Recasner, public school education should be a transformative experience, a high-quality place where all children can thrive, regardless of their background. He believes the answer lies in charter schools. For 20 years, Recasner has been a tireless advocate for the educational reform movement in New Orleans. He headed up James Lewis Extension, the city’s first charter school (now New Orleans Charter Middle), and co-founded First Line Schools, which oversees four charter schools. Now chief executive officer for Agenda for Children, he works on behalf of young children and families.
How does improving public education improve a community?
Children begin to imagine the unimaginable, and really take what we (adults) see as impossible and turn it into reality. For children, there are no obstacles; it’s the ‘Why not?’ attitude. I think that is the true value in education.
Where do you see New Orleans five years from now?
Because of the existence of a charter school system in the city, we are really at the vanguard of education reform across the country. I believe that the example we’ve set in education sets a good example for the ways other areas of the city can change.
How do you overcome obstacles?
I have tried to work in a way that can inspire educators across all of the sectors of education, so that even though we have different types of schools and school systems, at the end of the day, it’s all for the same thing — making available the higher quality educational experience for kids so we can live together in a community we can all be proud of.
How has your psychology background helped you in your position?
I really have tried to understand the perspective of all the children that I’ve worked with. We get the kids the way they come to us, and the goal is to take them to the next place. I really understand the essence of teaching and learning and the essence of childhood.
What important qualities do you think make for a good teacher?
To be able to inspire students about the many possibilities that exist in life. The best teachers I’ve seen have taught their subjects well and used them as a way of opening up the world for the kids to see it.
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