Berkeleyside reader Alan Saldich contacted us with news of the death earlier this week of Janet Stork, Head of School at The Berkeley School.

Janet Stork, well-known educational researcher and independent school administrator, died of cancer at age 55, at home in Kensington, California, on April 5, 2010.   She is survived by her children, Andrew and Catie Birnberg of Berkeley; her father, Gilbert Stork of New York; and her siblings, Diana Stork of Boston and Linda and Philip Stork of Portland, as well as several nieces and nephews.  Her mother, Winifred Stewart Stork, predeceased her.

Janet was born on December 1, 1954, the third of Gilbert and Winifred Stork’s four children.  Her father is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Columbia University.  Janet grew up in an intellectually focused home, and received her B.A. in Child Study from Tufts University, where she studied with David Henry Feldman and Sylvia Feinburg.  She went on for her M.A. in Education from Teachers College, and was a Ph.D candidate in Applied Child Development at Tufts.

Fueled by tremendous energy and passion for education, Janet began her career as an early childhood and elementary teacher, moving into administration at schools such as the Eliot Pearson Children’s School at Tufts University and the Dalton School in N.Y.  Janet was the driving force behind the creation of the Morriss Center School’s high school program in Bridgehampton, New York.  She was a foundational contributor to Project Zero at Harvard University, working closely with Howard Gardner and others throughout her career on a variety of subjects such as assessment, documentation, and curricula based on the framework of multiple intelligences.  A sought-after speaker who presented at numerous national and international conferences pertaining to teaching, curriculum design, and child development, Janet co-authored several scholarly articles about curriculum and teaching. She also wrote for children’s public television programs and served as a design consultant for schools.

Her last position (2006-2009) was as Head of School at The Berkeley School, formerly Berkeley Montessori School, where she led a cultural shift from a strict Montessori pedagogy to a more research-based program that drew from the best of current educational research and practice.  After stepping down for medical reasons in October, 2009, she continued to inspire the school community from her home until her death.

Her colleague from Project Zero, Mara Krechevsky, observed that “Janet Stork was an outstanding educational leader, critical and creative thinker, and researcher who traveled easily between the worlds of educational theory and practice, finding innovative and creative ways to bridge the two. As someone grounded in the research side of the field, I greatly admired Janet’s ability to make the newest findings in educational research relevant and accessible to teachers. Early on, Janet identified key implications of the Reggio approach for instruction and assessment, not just for American early childhood education, but for education at all levels.”

A celebration of Janet’s life is planned for Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 6:30 p.m. at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison Street in Berkeley.  The family will hold a similar event on the East Coast at a later date.

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