WA Awards Inaugural Raghavan Family Professorship
Kimberly Canty wants students to feel confident, safe, and appreciated for who they are and to know that their very existence is a gift to this world. A first grade teacher and literacy coordinator at the Primary School with a PhD in education, Canty is the first faculty member to be awarded the Deepak Raghavan Family Professorship.
The professorship was established with an endowment created by Deepak Raghavan and Priya Deepak to support a faculty member who demonstrates innovation, creativity, collaboration, and inspiration with a salary supplement for five years. The family also has endowed a need-based financial aid fund for students.
The couple’s children, Anjan ’14 and Aditi ’17, attended Woodward, and Mr. Raghavan, who is co-founder and director of software company Manhattan Associates and an adjunct professor at Georgia State University, is a member of the Academy’s Governing Board.
“We know firsthand, as alumni parents, what an outstanding education Woodward provides, and we want to be part of sustaining the school by supporting students and teachers,” Mr. Raghavan said. “We were happy to see her being rewarded for her dedication and accomplishments. We wish her and everyone at Woodward the very best during this school year. We’ve been so impressed by the resilience of students and the incredible efforts and creativity of teachers in these uncertain times.”
Eric Mitchell, Primary School Principal, nominated Canty for the award. “Kim is an expert in providing people what they need. This includes being able to identify the needs of students, faculty, and parents,” he said. “As a reading support teacher, she tailors her instruction to the needs of each of her students. She provides her fellow teachers with support in implementing best practices in literacy. Teachers are always seeking her counsel.”
Christy Manuel says Canty gave her daughter, Lola ’26, a strong academic foundation and love for learning. “Having Canty as my daughter’s teacher was like a breath of fresh air. She has a spirit of calm and joy all in one,” she said. “As a parent, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect teacher at such a tender age. She made learning fun and stress free. I absolutely love Canty.”
Beyond the Gate talked with Canty about her work and what inspired her to go into teaching.
BTG: Did you always want to teach?
KC: Yes, since the age of 5. The first educator who inspired me was my Sunday school teacher, Ms. Daisy Smith. She also was a middle school teacher who let me assist with so many things involving teaching. She inspired me to follow my dreams and to this day continues to check in and offer guidance.
BTG: What were you like when you were the age of your students?
KC: I was a hard worker who always wanted to help my teacher as well as help others. I liked extra work and enjoyed learning new things, even if it was a struggle.
BTG: Take us through your career at Woodward and tell us what attracted you to the school?
KC: I have spent the last nine years here, serving in the capacity of first and second grade teacher as well as literacy specialist. I’ve served on numerous committees such as Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Community Council, Leadership WA, Sunshine Committee, Curriculum Team, Innovation Team, and the Language Art committee. The richly diverse community, the love of learning kids have, and the ability to truly teach students while letting kids be kids all drew me to Woodward Academy.
BTG: Describe your pedagogy/approach to teaching.
KC: My teaching approach embraces each child as they are. I believe every child has greatness within, and it is my job to find the gift inside every child. What works for one student may not work for another. But by continually building personal relationships, my students are more willing to take learning risks, and the key to unlocking the doors of their learning potential is obtainable. I believe my role is to educate and empower the lives of students and their parents.
BTG: Tell us about your career “pre-Woodward.”
KC: I began my teaching career in Clayton County, where I was named teacher of the year twice. Over eight years, I taught first through fifth grades, which gave me a wonderful overview of the differences of each grade level. I also served as district curriculum writer in Clayton County, planning and managing district-wide meetings involving curriculum development and implementation, as well as district-wide elementary trainer.
BTG: Mr. Mitchell described you as excellent at communicating with parents and a wonderful resource for fellow teachers. Tell us about your motivations/philosophies around these areas.
KC: Parents are doing their best for their children each and every day. I find it imperative to understand that each child is a parent’s heart walking through our doors. As a parent as well as a teacher, I understand them, and the concerns that they have for their children. I equip teachers and parents alike with knowledge—not ultimatums. Guiding teachers and parents to a deeper understanding of literacy, education, and best practices is what I love to do.
BTG: Who are your personal heroes?
KC: My personal heroes are my parents. They have always supported me in whatever I have decided to do. From a young age, they instilled in me that greatness is inside of you. Another hero I admire is Stacey Abrams. She consistently follows her purpose, regardless of unfairness or defeat. She defines for me true leadership; leadership is a behavior not a position! Throughout my educational experience, opportunities have come and gone; but I proceed to walk in my purpose to serve, inspire, and empower.
BTG: Tell us about your family.
KC: My parents, Rayford and Catherine Patterson, are retired, and my two sisters, Vanessa and Kathryn, work in healthcare. My husband, Derrick, and I have two beautiful little boys, Leland, 4, and Carter, 3. They are fun-loving boys who remind me daily to be kind, loving, and confident and to enjoy every day to the fullest. My parents worked hard to provide for myself and my sisters. We support and love each other no matter what. I’ve known my husband since the age of 5, and we’ve been married for 12 years. He is a rock for our family and always backs me up whenever I need it. My sisters are always in my corner to uplift, listen, and help with anything I may need. I know that I can always call on them. Our closest family friend, Ms. Carol Tolan, is like a second mother to me and has helped me along this journey called life. As a former educator herself, she has provided clarity, inspiration, and support during so many times. I’m from a big extended family and, to us, love and family mean everything.