A book cover with a photo of a teacher mentoring a student

Katrina's Sandcastles: New Hope From The Ruins of New Orleans Schools

by Kaycee Eckhardt Author

“The first thing I need you to know is that becoming a teacher was the most important thing that ever happened to me.” With these words, Kaycee Eckhardt begins a journey both harrowing and hopeful: The story of becoming an effective teacher, of building a new school, and of changing the face of education in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Beginning as a first year teacher, barely out of six weeks of training, the book follows her path from the New Orleans neighborhoods of Holly Grove, Algiers, Treme, and the 9th Ward. She takes us through four different schools, a destroyed bicycle, a half dead pit bull, a burlesque-dancer, spit and a concussion, broken light bulbs, a phonics lesson, and how to plant the seeds of literacy in the most dire of circumstances. With affection and brutal honesty, she relates the hilarity and tragedy of her students' lives, the belief in all things possible, and finally, her most difficult decision of all. Filled with heartbreaking stories, teacher survival strategies, and an excess of heart, Katrina's Sandcastles is a story of sacrifice and struggle, belief and failure, despair and ultimate redemption in the heart of the Crescent City.


  • inside spread
  • back cover

Read an interview with the author on our blog!

Comments & Reviews


Eckhardt takes us behind contentious school reform debates to the life of a young teacher in a New Orleans charter school. With uncompromising candor, she vividly describes the hard-won successes and gut-wrenching failures of a teacher's work. You won't forget the young people in her classroom and what she learned from them.


"A riveting and nuanced look at one of the most important education stories of our time. As an educator who worked in New Orleans schools for several years after Hurricane Katrina, Kaycee Eckhardt adds a desperately needed front-line perspective to our understanding of this complex and important story. Passionate and dedicated, Eckhardt writes from the heart."


"It's a book that reminds us that it's kids that are important, it's a story of why teachers do what they do...It's a gem... an important book, and I'm so glad it has been written."


Beautiful, brave, and honest. Kaycee shows us the complexity of good teaching—the commitment, the skills, the heart, the humility. A testament to the possibility, difficulty, and challenge of improving education that should be read by anyone considering teaching in urban school systems.