A former Teach For America Corps Member, Josh Densen had a vision of creating a charter school in New Orleans that was build on 2 pillars: advancing educational equity and creating innovators who can change the world.
He knew that in our times, it is important to give children a balance of independence within limits. At Bricolage Academy, the school Josh went on to found, there’s a lot of student ownership and freedom within clear boundaries allowing students to thrive.
Josh has two children: Max, who is a 2nd grader at Bricolage, and Ella who is in 4th grade at another charter school in New Orleans.
After TFA, he participated in the Coro Fellowship and advised one of ten regional superintendents in New York City Department of Education. Josh returned to the classroom as a 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: STAR College Prep Charter School in Harlem. Later, he relocated to New Orleans to open and lead the local office of The Achievement Network, a position he held for two years before starting to work on Bricolage, which opened in 2013.
Today, Bricolage Academy serves Kindergarten through 2nd grades and will eventually grow to serving kids up to 8th grade. Their teaching principles for Kindergarten are less focused on academic readiness and much more concerned with social-emotional qualities: empathy, kindness, honesty, friendship, responsibility and more. This, Josh believes, are the qualities children need to succeed both academically and in life.
In our conversation, Josh talks about his path to opening the doors to Bricolage Academy and designing it as the school it is today. Josh stresses that this school is a steady work in progress and he and his staff are still learning and making mistakes every day which, in his opinion, is one of the many benefits of the school’s culture.
We discuss the rebuilding of the school system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, with many wins and losses happening along the way. Special education, for example, was a major oversight. The application process for getting into a school was really difficult and transportation for the kids wasn’t regulated properly. The good news is, all these have been or are being addressed now.
Josh and I consider the pros and cons of the open application process, allowing parents to apply for (just about) any school, as is the case in New Orleans. Additionally, we talk about the educational ideal that Josh is dreaming about and why it matters to put the power back in the educators’ and parents’ hands.
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