Horace Mann: A Century of Quality Teaching in the Heart of the City

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Outstanding Middle School

As the head of the venerable Horace Mann School in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Westchester county native and veteran educator Thomas Kelly admits that it’s all about the teaching.

“Each and every moment that we are together is a teachable moment, one in which both students and teachers challenge each other to mine their worth for all it’s worth,” said Kelly, who has been involved in teaching since his junior year in college and whose daughter Emma Rose has been a student at the school since he took the helm eight years ago.

Kelly, who holds several education degrees including a Ph.D. from Columbia Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and Teachers’ College, said that “hands down, it’s the life of the mind that looms large for everyone within the Horace Mann family.”

He adds that the school’s rigorous academic program is what keeps students motivated and energized, always thinking in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, said Kelly, there is the strong sense of community at Horace Mann School. “At every layer, there is a connective tissue that allows us to both celebrate and care for each other in highly personalized ways.”

The Mann school, with 1,816 students and 240 faculty members, has been in existence for 125 years and functions as a complete private school serving grades N-12 with an 18-acre main campus in Riverdale and a 275-acre outdoor education center in Bethlehem, Conn. The school is one of the 10 largest day schools in the country and was ranked as the second best prep school in the country by Forbes magazine in 2010.

Notable alumni include Pedro Alvarez, a 2005 Mann graduate who now plays Major League baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as Samuel Newhouse, a media executive who is one of the top 50 richest Americans.

According to Kelly, some highlights of the school include special events, such as the sixth-grade trip to Colonial Williamsburg, climbing atop a 50-foot Cooperative Adventure Tower at the Dorr Nature Laboratory in Connecticut, or the Middle Division Read-In day, when all students celebrate the same piece of literature.

Kelly said he is especially thankful for the school’s John Dorr Nature Laboratory, where by way of scripted experiences, middle-division students learn essential team-building and healthy risk-taking skills, all while developing a greater appreciation for the physical environment and the need to think carefully about each individual’s carbon footprint.

Speaking more generally about Horace Mann’s academic offerings, Kelly said, “From the core academics to the arts, to the programs at John Dorr, to athletics, and to our robust co-curricular programs, all aspects of the teaching-learning process are valued equally at Horace Mann School.”

Parents of Horace Mann students had nothing but glowing comments on the school and its stellar reputation. “We feel very fortunate to have found the perfect school for our son—one that constantly stimulates him to stretch his mind and exercise his curiosity within an environment that makes him feel safe and nurtured and that makes learning fun, with unparalleled resources to make it all possible,” said Susan, a parent of a 2019 Mann School graduate.  “What more could a parent wish for?” she asked.

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