“Master Teacher…” Barbara Taylor 1922-2012


Barbara Taylor passed away on January 6, 2012 — just five days after her 90th birthday. An impassioned educator and educational reformer, Barbara (or BT as so many called her) was a catalyst for the Institute’s work in education and youth development.

Barbara enjoyed a long career — first in Philadelphia, and then in New York — working as an elementary school teacher, reading specialist, assistant principal, principal and founder of a community school. She was an energetic spirit who, over many decades, helped several generations of poor children and young adults grow emotionally and develop as learners and leaders. Barbara was also a dance teacher for seniors (see:  The New York Times photo essay on her Harlem “Steppers”), professor at Touro College, and member of various Harlem community organizations.

When in her 60s, Barbara was principal of the St. Thomas Community School in Harlem and frustrated in her efforts to support poor children to learn. She came to Fred Newman and Lois Holzman for help to become a more radical educator.  With the Institute, Barbara founded the Barbara Taylor School as a community-based K-12 lab school. From 1985 to 1997, the School experimented with a play and performance pedagogy based in Newman and Holzman’s understanding of Lev Vygotsky’s psychology.  (See Holzman’s Schools for Growth.) In 1993, Barbara and students traveled with Holzman to Moscow to showcase their school to educators at Eureka University. The Moscow visit included a warm meeting with Vygotsky’s daughter, Gita Vygodskaya. Says Holzman:

 We learned an enormous amount about kids, schooling, learning, development, teaching, performance and play from the Barbara Taylor School. After we closed the school in 1997, Barbara remained active with the Institute, and continued to enthusiastically support the development community’s work in culture, psychology, youth development and politics, even as she became blind and infirm. She lived fully, died peacefully and will be missed.


About Janet Wootten

Janet Wootten is a media and public relations professional, a member of the Institute’s Board of Directors and a leader of its annual community fundraising campaign.
This entry was posted in Education, Lois Holzman, Uncategorized, Vygotsky and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Master Teacher…” Barbara Taylor 1922-2012

  1. Warren says:

    Barbara was a quintessential learner as well as teacher. I remember her sitting avidly in many Developmental Philosophy classes led by Fred Newman. Her eyes, now unseeing, still shined. She radiated warmth and wisdom, and was as indefatigably radical, as energetically humanist, as she’d ever been.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s