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Teaching Life: A Critically Acclaimed Book by the Head of Upper Division at Avenues New York

“Teaching really is an art form,” Todd Shy, head of Upper Division at Avenues New York, writes in the introduction to his recently-published book. “But there are no galleries to display the real work of a teacher.” What follows is Shy’s attempt to create just such a gallery in words. Blending memoir and narrative nonfiction, and incorporating personal insights from more than two decades in the classroom, in Teaching Life: Life Lessons for Aspiring (and Inspiring) Teachers, Shy makes an eloquent case for teaching as a vocation. The book is, in his words, “a celebration of what it is to be a teacher.”

Published in 2021, Teaching Life is divided into twenty-five “lessons,” each one informed by the more than twenty-five years Shy has spent teaching in schools from North Carolina to California to New York (including ten years at Avenues New York). The first of these lessons, entitled “What Teaching Is For,” consists of a letter to the author’s two daughters, both of whom were preparing to follow in their father’s footsteps by becoming teachers. “The best teachers have a polymath streak and are tireless lifelong learners,” he writes to them. “Let this [book] be one of a thousand points of view you absorb as you form your own.”

Since its publication, the book has received critical acclaim from several prominent author-educators. Sam Swope, founder and president of The Academy for Teachers called it “an eloquent love letter to teaching and to life, written by a veteran teacher at the height of his powers.” Bob Blaisdell, author of Tolstoy as Teacher: Leo Tolstoy’s Writings on Education, praised the book as “inspirational in the spirit of Emerson and Thoreau.” In 2022, Shy discussed his book on several podcasts, including the Future Learning Design Podcast, Transformative Learning Experiences with Kyle Wagner, and Conversing with Mark Labberton. You can hear more about his motivation and inspiration for writing the book in this video.

Teaching Life is one of several titles published by Avenues The World School Press, the first academic press operated by a private, independent PK-12 educational institution. In the tradition of a university-styled press, Avenues Press seeks to advance and extend Avenues’ mission by promoting awareness and understanding of the role of education in addressing global-scale problems, and to make “available our discoveries, large and small, to colleagues in the cause of education.” To this end, Avenues Press republishes widely-taught classic works and makes them available for free as downloadable PDFs, and publishes a small number of original works each year in both print and digital form. To learn more about Avenues The World School Press and download PDF titles, click here.