TA News

TA’s Joe Deffner Talks with Educator and Author Ken Cadow in Image’s Summer Issue

Longtime Thetford Academy English teacher Joe Deffner recently sat down with his former colleague, author and educator Ken Cadow. Cadow’s first novel, Gather, released last fall, was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Deffner and Cadow overlapped as Thetford Academy English teachers over a decade ago, forming a friendship and collegiality that comes through in Deffner’s recent piece about Cadow’s work. In “The Principal Teacher of the Upper Valley,” featured in the Summer 2024 issue of the Upper Valley’s Image magazine, Deffner explores how Cadow’s long career as an educator shapes his approach to writing – and vice versa.

In Gather, Cadow’s young protaganist Ian faces challenges of poverty and isolation, challenges that often impede his success in the classroom. But, as educators Cadow and Deffner recognize, a student like Ian is still a learner, “maybe just not a school learner.” It’s this thread that connects Cadow’s writing to his current job as principal at Oxbow High School.

“More than anything,” Deffner writes, “Ken envisions a system where students are as engaged as they are at hunting camps; a system that is place-based and leverages our natural resources; a system that bases learning on students’ strengths.” By keeping his feet on the ground in education, Cadow hopes to be a part of implementing this vision in “a very real-time way.”

On a spring visit to back to his old teaching grounds at TA, Cadow joined Emily Silver’s English class to talk about Gather. In “The Principal Teacher,” Deffner writes about Silver’s reaction to the book: “In Ian, she ‘recognized elements of many of my students’ and she ‘felt deeply grateful to hear their voices valued. They have important stories to tell and rich connections to the land.’”

It’s clear we need more stories like Gather – and from Deffner’s article, it sounds like we just might get them from Cadow.

Read “The Principal Teacher of the Upper Valley,” by Joe Deffner, at the link. Or access the full magazine online at



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