She Loves DC: Kaya Henderson

Photo Courtesy of Andy Le DCPS

Photo Courtesy of Andy Le DCPS / Pictured: Kaya Henderson (center)

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Kaya Henderson is an education advocate. In June 2011, Henderson was confirmed as the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools but even before then she was hard at work assisting where she could in regards to education. Henderson came to DCPS as Deputy Chancellor in 2007 after time spent as a corps member at Teach For America and as the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at The New Teacher Project.

Through it all, Henderson has maintained her commitment to, “holding all students to high expectations, providing them with access to high quality teachers and leaders, and creating the most rigorous and innovative instructional environments to ensure their success” in DC’s public schools. And despite the job’s daily rigors, her work is her passion and not even the most difficult of hurdles will keep her from attempting to achieve her goals when there are a student’s best interests are involved.

While Henderson hails from Mt. Vernon, NY, she’s called DC home for many years and is happy to have “hung her hat” in this city.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

They say home is where you hang your hat, so DC is home because it’s where my hat is hung! I have a great home in an amazing neighborhood (Brookland). I’ve built my family here and am surrounded by awesome friends and professional colleagues. I love that the city has range – you can be as high-brow or as get-down as you like and feel comfortable. But most of all, I love the people in this city. Washingtonians are exciting, resilient, creative, and fun!

Describe your perfect day in DC. Where would you go and what would you do? 

My perfect day in DC: I’d start by reading the Post on my front porch and chatting with my neighbors. Then I’d head out for a morning bike ride on one of many bike trails in and around the city or around the Arboretum (gorgeous ride, but the hills will kill you!) After the ride, I’d have lunch with family somewhere around Gallery Place, then we’d hit the movies, bowl at Lucky Strike, or take in a Hoyas basketball game (we have season tickets). We’d drop the kids off and meet friends at the Hamilton or Masa 14 for drinks. Then we’d head home and sit on the deck enjoying the night air before bedtime.

What’s your favorite hidden gem of a location in DC? How did you find it and why do you love it?   

My favorite hidden gem of a location is the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, which is in my neighborhood. I found it exploring the neighborhood when I first moved to Brookland. I love it because it is a place of peace, beauty, and spirituality that is open to the public. It’s a great place to go for quiet time to reflect. There flowers and landscaping are gorgeous. There are nooks, corners, gardens, hallways, porticos, benches, and more, where you can just sit and be at peace. The annual flower sale at the Monastery is a treat. We took our holiday family picture there last year.

Who’s your favorite DC personality and why?

My favorite DC personality was Chuck Brown. He was quintessentially DC! He was authentic. He never shied away from his past, but didn’t let it keep him from a better future. He was a creative force in the city, putting it on the national music map through go-go. And he brought people from all walks of life together to have a good time through his music.

What’s your favorite memory associated with your work in DC Public Schools and why? 

My favorite memory associated with DC Public Schools is our annual Beautification Day. It’s heartwarming to see Washingtonians from all over the city, with paintbrushes and gardening tools in hand, working together to make our schools beautiful, welcoming places on the first day of school.

Rachel moved to DC in the fall of 2005 to study Journalism and Music at American University. When she’s not keeping up with the latest Major League Baseball news, she works on making music as an accomplished singer-songwriter and was even a featured performer/speaker at TEDxDupont Circle in 2012. Rachel has also contributed to The Washington Examiner and MASN Sports’ Nationals Buzz as a guest blogger. See why she loves DC. E-Mail: rachel@welovedc.com.

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