Kerry Ruef - Founder and Director Kerry Ruef is an innovator and educator whose mission is to give kids and adults the most efficient (and delightful) intellectual tools for success.
The recipient of numerous grants and awards, an amateur naturalist, and former classroom teacher, Ruef conceived of and founded The Private Eye Project to accelerate creative and critical thinking.
The seeds of The Private Eye Project sprouted when she began seeking the habits of mind that are common denominators to writers, scientists, artists, mathematicians and social scientists. By 1988 she’d arrived at a theory, encapsulated in The Private Eye process: an original, hands-on strategy for thinking by analogy to magnify minds. As part of the joy and wonder of this process, she introduced to the world of education the jeweler’s loupe (as a seeing and thinking tool). Originally piloted in the Seattle Public Schools and grant-funded by the Discuren Foundation of Washington State, The Private Eye has spread to tens of thousands of teachers, parents and professionals, and over three million students. Ruef has taught hundreds of teacher training workshops and courses all over the country, and keynoted conferences ranging from The American Montessori Society to the Center for Creative Problem Solving.
"On a hot summer day, in 1988, I'd
been thinking about the enormous power of the metaphor mind,
the mind that sees the world through the lens and network
The doors of my studio were open and bees sometimes
swept in and began banging their heads against the skylight.
The bamboo outside was rustling like taffeta skirts
and it was an altogether lovely day to be thinking."
— from Chapter 1, The
Private Eye - (5X) Looking / Thinking by Analogy (Ruef, 2003, 1998, 1992, The Private
As you might imagine of someone who created The Private Eye, Kerry Ruef has an eclectic background. Her first exposure to the power of education as the essential mechanism for achieving social justice occurred while she was in high school: she was lucky to be involved in Project Brotherhood where, during the summer of 1966, she taught elementary school students from a barrio in Bakersfield, California, a project that included Cesar Chavez as one of its leaders.
Believing as much in the power of language and literature as in education, Ruef earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and went on to graduate studies in education from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego, taught in halfway houses in Watts in Los Angeles, taught as a special education classroom teacher at Children’s Workshop in San Diego, and completed Montessori training through the International Montessori School of London.
To explore a writing career, she left classroom teaching: for a decade she worked as a freelance writer and was twice a writer-in-residence with The Seattle Arts Commission where she conceived of and produced The Floating Poetry Gallery, a unique blend of juried work from 150 artists and poets that “floated” through public buildings (years before poetry-on-the-buses in NYC and other cities). Fred Bassetti, one of the leading architects in the Pacific Northwest, took an interest in her art-in-public-places work; Bassetti became a lifelong mentor to Ruef in architecture and engineering, but more importantly in attention to detail, how building designs can be inspired by nature, and the links between biology, psychology, and architecture. (It was Fred Bassetti who first showed Kerry a jeweler’s loupe!) During that first decade in Seattle, Ruef also worked with the Artists-in the Schools program in Seattle public schools, and with Senior Programs teaching writing.
After Ruef founded The Private Eye Project, in addition to facilitating Private Eye Workshops (eventually with her partner, David Melody), she taught graduate level education courses in the Private Eye interdisciplinary method. She currently co-teaches a graduate education course at Portland State University. She’s been teaching students and teachers for over forty years.
Read a few comments about Kerry:
"Private Eye Rules! If you haven't had Kerry come talk to your teachers/school districts, be sure to do it soon — I was blown away when I attended her session at this years M&M [Microscopy and Microanalysis] Meeting in Portland — I don't think I stopped smiling the entire time because she was so 'on target'." — Dr. Sherry Cady, Assistant Professor of Geology, Portland State University
"I've made over 800 presentations all over the world and exhibited at hundreds of conferences, and I’ve never seen the level of enthusiasm following a presentation as I did from the teachers coming from Kerry Ruef’s Private Eye session. It was almost like a religious experience."
— Ron Perkins, Founder and Former CEO,
"I loved the way Kerry walked the room as we had group discussions and wrote down all we were saying and then asked us questions and probed for deeper meaning. The probing for deeper observation and making connections is going to be essential for my students."
— Sara Bryant, teacher
"The best workshop I've been to, ever. It really changed my thinking; it really changed my approach to what I'm doing with the kids."
— Gail Greenleaf, teacher, Tucson Unified School District, AZ
David Melody - Associate Director
A graduate of Harvard, David Melody brings an array of talents to his work with The Private Eye Project. He has spearheaded taking the project from a regional level as a pilot project in the Seattle Public Schools to a nationally acclaimed, nationwide education program reaching thousands of teachers and over two million students.
Along with Kerry Ruef, David facilitates The Private Eye workshops and conference presentations, where his humor and electric presentation style keep teachers on the edge of their seats.
He is also a writer whose short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals, and a gallery exhibiting photographer whose work has been published in The Smithsonian magazine.