It’s easy to understand how the Lynch School of Education’s Andy Hargreaves might wake up and take a moment to sort out his surroundings.

Glasgow, Toronto, London, Stockholm and Washington, DC, are among his most recent stops. And that’s just during the past month.

Colleagues of the Brennan Professor of Education say that tempo is typical of Hargreaves, setting off for research, lectures and consultations with teachers, principals and policymakers.

Lynch School Brennan Professor Andy Hargreaves
Lynch School Brennan Professor Andy Hargreaves
Lee Pellegrini

“He pushes himself at an extraordinary pace,” says Lynch School Professor Dennis Shirley, who has co-authored two books with Hargreaves. “In return for a brutal schedule, he has the reward of being highly impactful in the field.”

His dedication has not gone unrecognized: On Feb. 12, Hargreaves will be in Phoenix to receive the Horace Mann League of the USA’s 2016 Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award, an honor presented to the public schools’ leading advocates and thinkers, including past recipients Marian Wright Edelman, Pedro Noguera, Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol.

“We honor people who make an impact on public education in particular,” says Horace Mann League Executive Director Jack McKay. “Andy’s work – specifically his recent books – and his ability to communicate to many audiences made a direct connection with us and we’re pleased to honor him as a friend of public education.”

It is the second recent major recognition for Hargreaves, who has authored or edited more than 30 books. In late 2014 he shared the $100,000 Grawemeyer Prize with co-author Michael Fullan for their book Professional Capital.

Hargreaves has been studying how to improve the work of teachers, principals and schools for nearly 30 years in his native United Kingdom, Canada and the US. Bridging theory and practice, Hargreaves searches for successful initiatives that can be shared in any classroom.

When he speaks about the influences that led him to focus on the essentials of teaching and learning – particularly in the public sector – Hargreaves cites his late mother, Doris, a working-class woman who prized the value of education, and his early teachers in Accrington, a mill town just north of Manchester, England.

To receive an award that honors Mann, credited as the “father” of American public schools, fits with Hargreaves’ belief in the transformative power of education.

“Horace Mann stood for great things – access for all to school, a strong teaching profession and the public good,” says Hargreaves, who came to BC in 2002, following 15 years at the University of Toronto. “To receive an award in line with those values is one I am grateful to accept and puts me in company I’m honored to keep.”

Hargreaves’ most recent initiatives include advising the premier of Ontario on education policy, launching the new Journal of Professional Capital & Community and serving as president-elect of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement.

Hargreaves is eager to mine insights into the educational experience, whether they come from international data sets – or David Bowie’s report card.

Following the British singer’s death last month, Hargreaves paid tribute on Twitter, posting a teacher’s report card comment that the future global superstar was a “complete exhibitionist” and lamenting that if the young Bowie was more focused and consistent, “his ability would have been put to better use!”

The comment said as much about the challenges teachers face as it did about Bowie as a teen-age student, says Hargreaves.

“You have somebody who was spectacularly creative in life, so how could the school not pick it up? Yet the evaluation was both incredibly right and incredibly wrong. But it points to the challenge of any school to pick up the glimmer of something special in a student and to nurture it and challenge it.”

Married to his wife Pauline, father of two grown children and grandfather to three, Hargreaves says that in his free time he is an “obsessive walker.”

He enjoys hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail, as well as other iconic walking and climbing routes in Britain and Europe – typically joined by his colleague Shirley and both of their wives. Each day, he notes, should start with a “proper breakfast” and end with a comfortable bed.

Much like schools, Hargreaves views the protected natural spaces he hikes as essential to the public good.

“I have always been interested in those places and the people who work to improve the public good,” says Hargreaves. “That’s done in schools, in the public parks we maintain for recreation and in hospitals that care for people who are sick. I think these are critically important places.”

Ed Hayward | News & Public Affairs