We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Tenkely and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, what role has risk played in your life or career?
“None of us know what will happen. Don’t spend time worrying about it. Make the most beautiful thing you can. Try to do that every day. That’s it.” -Laurie Anderson
I don’t think of myself as a risk-taker. More often than not, in life, I tend to be risk adverse. When I started Anastasis Academy and the Learning Genome Project ten years ago, they didn’t feel like risks, they felt inevitable. The bigger risk became: what happens if I don’t do it?
Knowing what I know, what am I going to do about it? At the end of the day, this is the question that had me starting a school. I saw what wasn’t working in our current system of education and I had a sense of urgency that educators get it right for the benefit of kids everywhere. Kids don’t have the luxury of time to wait for someone to be brave, they keep growing and advancing through school. I saw myself as implicated to do something.
My biggest aversion to risk taking is the fear of putting something out into the world that isn’t perfect. But in this instance, I knew I had to do something. I had to start something and give myself the permission that I could continue to iterate, test, and design. It didn’t have to be perfect, it just needed a starting place. If I had waited until I had the perfect school design, Anastasis Academy wouldn’t exist. Within the world of education, perfect is a moving target as kids and society change (the pandemic is an apt picture of that!). I had to decide to just begin and give myself permission to start over as needed and to be agile every step of the way.
The first step into risk taking can feel overwhelming, but I often found myself reframing the risk. The risk to start a school felt much less risky than the risk to do nothing. Maintaining the status quo, doing what every one else does, and letting kids continue to exist in a system of education that isn’t about them? That is real risk with lasting consequences!
What should our readers know about your business?
Anastasis Academy is a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Centennial, Colorado. In 2010, I was working on a piece of technology I hoped would revolutionize learning by honoring students as unique individuals, The Learning Genome Project. In the midst of that work, I realized that we don’t currently have a model of education ready to individualize and honor students in that way. Anastasis Academy is the embodiment of those ideals. Anastasis honors and meets every child where they are within a living curriculum, more a moving river than a stagnant pool. Our work is about the individuals we serve, not an external, unmoving target. At Anastasis students are active participants, designers, and evaluators of their learning.
We are proud of the work we’ve done so far at Anastasis. But our vision is more significant. We believe that we have a moral obligation to make learning meaningfully better for all students, not just those we serve within the walls of Anastasis Academy.
We believe that all children deserve an education that sees them. To that end, we believe in sharing what we’ve discovered at Anastasis Academy about identity and learning. We hope to grow this model and invite others to learn from us and with us. Our goal is to empower every school to value students first and design systems that prioritize the learner and learning over compliance and protection of an outdated system.
As we look to the future of Anastasis, we commit to being identity honoring. We commit to evolving and growing as we learn more. We commit to creativity and innovation. We commit to spreading good.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Colorado is endlessly wonderful. Catch me taking all out of town guests to Snooze, Rioja, Beatrice and Woodsley, Angelos, and Blue Spruce Brewery at some point during their stay. Red rocks are a must…yoga on the rocks if it’s the right time of year! Sunset from Daniel’s Park. Hikes and a forest swing on my uncles property off of Turkey Creek. Breckenridge, and Buena Vista day trips. A day in Denver to take in the Denver Art Museum and if we are lucky, a Culture Haus event.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My goodness, I have the privilege of being surrounded by truly exceptional people who have shaped me, challenged me, and made what I do possible every step of the way. I am grateful every day for my parents, both entrepreneurs who raised me in a home where curiosity and creativity were core values. My husband, Jonathan, who is forever supportive of the next step and inspires me with his own risk taking, creativity, and exploration. The students at Anastasis Academy, who are endless sources of inspiration and joy. They give my work purpose. The staff at Anastasis both past and present…you are dream builders, Anastasis exists because of the intersection of your passion, talent, and love.
Linkedin: Kelly tenkely