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Joan Cenedella Education Fund

Honoring Joan, A Champion for Farm to School Education

1936-2023

Joan loved her life and her world. From her earliest years she was an inveterate observer, of nature and of people. And she captured her world with photography and most especially with the written word. She lived a life of connection to others and brought warmth, insight, and wit into the lives of those she touched. Joan was committed to Grow Food Northampton’s mission from its founding days in 2010. 

After graduating from CCNY in 1959, Joan worked for several years as a book editor at TY Crowell Publishing Company. She later earned her Masters’ Degree in Education, and became a teacher at The Bank Street College School for Children. After teaching there for ten years, she moved into administration and served, first as Curriculum Advisor, then as Head of the Upper School and later as Dean of Children’s Programs. To extend her interest in the philosophy and practice of progressive education, Joan earned her doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College. In 1989 She became Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Bank Street College of Education.

Throughout her life she remained connected to many of the people she had taught as children. They shared their lives with her, asked her for advice, and in many ways showed their affection for her as the teacher “who really knew me and cared about me as a person.”

Joan retired from Bank Street in 1994 as she joined her life-partner Fran Volkmann in Northampton. She served for two years as Acting Director of a private school in Greenfield, then, for three years, as a consultant in the Northampton public schools, working particularly closely with Gwen Agna at the Jackson Street School. Additionally, Joan was actively involved with local nonprofits including the Northampton Community Music Center and the Northeast Foundation for Children.

In 2010 Joan joined a group of determined volunteers to help raise the funds to purchase the land that became Grow Food Northampton Community Farm and establish GFN to steward the farm and improve land and food access in the city. In both her role as an educator and as an early and dedicated supporter of GFN, Joan continued to champion the power of educating young people about where their food comes from, how to live and eat sustainably, and the importance of supporting local farms. She helped to develop the deep Farm to School Curriculum that still enhances the educational experience of every Northampton Public School student, and she championed the partnerships between the schools and local food and farming nonprofits like GFN.

An anonymous donor has offered a gift in honor of Joan in support of GFN’s education programs. All who knew and loved Joan are encouraged to contribute a gift to the fund.



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