Congrats to Mr. Ed Cavanaugh, our April Teacher of the Month

We are happy to announce Mr. Ed Cavanaugh as our April Teacher of the Month.  Mr. Cavanaugh directs the Get Out And Learn (GOAL) program at Downtown Continuation High School in San Francisco.  Students in Mr. Cavanaugh’s GOAL project earn core graduation requirement credits that help to propel them towards graduation and keep them from falling further behind while learning real-life skills. Downtown High School battles truancy and educates students whose circumstances and experiences in traditional educational settings have put them at risk for dropping out.

Mr. Cavanaugh begins each GOAL semester with a ten-day wilderness camping trip. Students learn first aid skills as well as how to read topographical maps and compasses.  Students also participate in and provide training on the Ft. Miley Adventure Ropes Course, where, as Mr. Cavanaugh says, “they receive valuable leadership skills and the opportunity to apply them.”  All these experiential activities are tied to academic assignments integrated into the day. Mr. Cavanaugh raises the funds for these activities from foundation grants and private donations. GOAL concludes with students learning traditional wooden boat-building techniques, constructing a small craft from start to finish themselves. As Mr. Cavanaugh explains, “In addition to all the team-building skills, there are practical math and physics involved in building a boat . . . and they have a daily journal to write.”

Mr. Larry Weiss, another teacher at Downtown High says of Mr. Cavanaugh:  “He has a laidback attitude, which makes him approachable to students. Although his demeanor is relaxed, he works hard to make the program interesting and educational for students who are at risk for dropping out.” One of Mr. Cavanaugh’s students, Diamond Edwards, told us that Mr. Cavanaugh is “the best teacher ever” and that he makes it “fun to learn and be in class.”  We think Mr. Cavanaugh’s teaching style embodies this quote from Lady Bird Johnson, a sentiment he shares with his students:  “Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”

Mr. Cavanaugh was featured in a New York Times article highlighting the boat-building component of the GOAL program as well as on the Edutopia website.

We are thrilled and honored to recognize Mr. Cavanaugh and his inspirational work, and, as the home to San Francisco’s only independent Pirate Supply Store, we are particularly tickled to honor a boat builder with our Teacher of the Month Award, accompanied by a $1500 honorarium for him to spend as he wishes.

826 Valencia has worked with Downtown High School through classes, namely the Acting for Critical Thought (ACT) class which partners with both 826 Valencia and A.C.T. to teach students both acting and playwriting (We worked with this class for our 2012 Young Authors’ Book Project, Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still). If you’d like to volunteer with Downtown High School, and you’re currently enrolled as an 826 Valencia volunteer, check out our current Acting for Critical Thought projects. If you would like to register as a volunteer, visit

Do you know someone who should be Teacher of the Month? Find out how to nominate teachers.

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