Deerfield Academy


What is the Athena Project?

Athena is a platform and program for connecting teachers around what we teach: the subjects and practices of our day-to-day work. While online courses, Khan Academy, and other outlets aim to teach students directly, this aims to make teaching practices accessible to other teachers.

Part content management system, part social network, part creative platform—accessible through a range of programmatic models for engagement—Athena provides an intuitive platform for teachers to browse, collect, create, share, revise, remix, and organize the small and large moves we make in the classroom. It is a venue for capturing discussion questions, assignments, classroom activities, and more—and through this to provide a canvas for teachers to research, collaborate and create anew.

Supported in its early stages by a $50,000 E. E. Ford matching grant in 2015, Athena grew out of a small number of boarding schools and aims to serve teachers at schools anywhere. It’s a long-range vision currently focused narrowly on the humanities.

What is Athena trying to accomplish?

Conceptually: The field of education has no professional memory. The annals of law hold hundreds of years of precedent for lawyers to consult. Doctors have catalogued thousands of years of medical procedures. But teachers reinvent the wheel every time they enter the classroom. Put one way: 100,000 teachers might teach The Great Gatsby each year, but these teachers have no idea what the others are doing. Put another way: great, veteran teachers retire, and with their retirement evaporates decades of knowledge and skill.

This absence and/or cyclical disappearance of professional memory is at the root of other problems in education. Just one: without a professional memory in education, creativity and innovation suffer. The thousands of approaches to individual texts, topics, and content that teachers have generated over history should be part of an invaluable resource, a great library for new teachers to explore, tweak, remix, or customize. But these resources either don’t exist, or exist only on a small scale. Without a meaningful archive, new teachers suffer, veteran teachers stagnate, and education evolves achingly slowly.

Practically: Athena is about professional development. And the best professional development happens when teachers talk with other teachers about teaching. Facilitating this conversation on a larger scale is the central goal of Athena. It’s a way for teachers to share and improve what we do. It expands our professional circles and improves our research and development. 

How can you get involved?

Teachers: hungry for collaboration or ongoing professional development? Looking to connect with teachers at other schools? If so, visit for more information, or contact Peter Nilsson for more information:

Organizations: Athena is always looking for content, network, research, and funding partners. Can you help in one of these areas? If so, contact Peter Nilsson at