Class of 1984, Deborah Kassel

Liliana Greyf, Staff Writer

Although Dr. Deborah Kassel is an English teacher, she still remembers the difference between meiosis and mitosis. This is a fact she credits to her time as a student at the school.

“I’ve been in school for a long time, from college to masters’ degrees in journalism and cinema studies, to getting a PhD in comparative literature, and I can say that Horace Mann was the most influential period educationally,” she said.

Kassel started attending the school in eighth grade, and she always tried to contribute to the school community through community service and extracurricular activities, she said.

She was a staff writer and then associate editor of the Record and participated in plays and stage crew. She also led the Saturday Morning Tutoring Program (SMTP) as a senior which she felt was the most meaningful organization she was a part of at the school, she said. She loved knowing that with the preparation the tutees were getting from the program, they would have better access to a competitive school that offered an outstanding education such as the school, she said.

The clubs that she took part in influenced her career choices. She continued the journalism she had started at The Record in undergraduate extracurriculars and then as a professional journalist for several years. She was also inspired by SMTP to appreciate the value of teaching. “All of these activities are seeds that took root as I grew older,” she said.

Kassel worked as an adjunct professor for journalism and literature at the City University of New York after graduate school. This was the start of her teaching career. “I was thrilled to get a job at HM,” she said. “It’s my 23rd year here now.”

The biggest difference of the school now is the relationship teachers have with students, she said. When Kassel was a student she could not negotiate with a teacher and there was no extra help. “It was sink or swim. I think now teachers and students are much more conscious of the opportunities there are for one-on-one help,” she said.

Having been a student at the school has made Kassel a more compassionate teacher. “I know first hand what it is like to be under stress and have a lot of work,” she said. Kassel always makes sure to give plenty of time to her students for major assignments and to ensure that writing is undertaken as a process of art- not just a result, she said. She is also a strong advocate for testing weeks to ensure that work doesn’t pile up on students.

Kassel looked up to her teachers as a student, so coming to work here was amazing, she said. “I thought they were so smart, and I learned so much from them,” she said. 

“Coming back to Horace Mann to work here was coming back to a big part of my childhood; it was a really thrilling experience,” Kassel said.