The National School Boards Association (NSBA) recently notified Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) that it has been named a 2023 Silver Magna Awards winner for its Harwood Harkness Initiative. The Magna Awards, sponsored by NSBA, honor school district best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning. The Magna Awards program has a long history of recognizing school district innovation in helping increase student achievement by solving challenges with creative and out-of-the-box strategies.


The Harwood Harkness Initiative (HHI) was established in 2016 with a $100,000 grant award from the Rowland Foundation, which supports Vermont educators who are motivated and committed to affecting change in an area of concern within their respective schools and who take risks and work collaboratively with others.

Initially led by now retired history teacher Katherine Cadwell and a cadre of dedicated high school faculty and students including current teacher leaders Kate Stauss and Adam Sargent, the initiative aims to transform teaching and learning by infusing the Harkness pedagogy of student-driven inquiry into classroom culture and practice. 

The Harwood Harkness Initiative was adopted to amplify student voice, encourage a diversity of perspectives, equity and inclusion in classroom culture and to develop the skills of civil discourse throughout the school.

Kathy Cadwell stated, “The Harkness Pedagogy places students at the center of the educational process; it fundamentally shifts the dynamics of the teacher-student relationship and places ownership and initiative for learning on the learner. The skills of questioning, valuing different perspectives and learning how to disagree respectively and work collaboratively are the essential skills our students need to acquire if our democracy is to remain healthy, vital and strong. Now, more than ever, we need to teach students how to use their voice in the classroom and in our greater world.”

Superintendent Dr. Mike Leichliter stated, “The Harwood Harkness Initiative was one of the primary reasons I was attracted to this school district. This impressive cadre of students and teachers see a need to improve academics as well as school climate at Harwood and work to be that change. By utilizing and nurturing student voice, student leadership and student-teacher partnerships this program has made a major impact on both classroom practice and the school climate at Harwood Union High School. Our community can be proud of our incredible students and teachers!”

The Harwood Harkness Initiative and the other national Magna Award winners will be featured in the April issue of American School Board Journal and honored at NSBA’s annual conference April 1-3 in Orlando, Florida.