Chantra Reinman, Shipley's new Head of Middle School, joins us from The American International School, in Lusaka, Zambia, where she served as a member of the Senior Leadership Team, the Director of Inclusion, and a member of the Child Protection Team. Before this, Chantra was the Assistant Head of School at The Lewis School of Princeton, along with serving as the Middle and Upper School principal at various times during her time there. With over 27 years of experience teaching English, both domestically and internationally, she brings a wealth of experience to her role, including a commitment to professional development and sharing that knowledge with her communities. Chantra has her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Bryn Mawr College, her Master of Science from Villanova University, and her Master of Educational Leadership from The College of New Jersey. Learn more about Chantra in the Q&A below.
Tell us about your journey into education. What led you to choose education as a profession?
My journey into education was somewhat accidental. After college, I wanted to travel to China but lacked the funds. So, I went to Taiwan as a volunteer English teacher with the intention of tutoring and saving money for a Great Wall of China adventure. However, life has a way of leading us down unexpected paths. What initially began as a way to support a travel hobby turned into a lifelong commitment to learning. It became clear to me that education was where I needed to be.
What has kept you in the field of education all these years?
There's a profound realization I had during my childhood in Iran that has stayed with me. During the Islamic Revolution, attending the international school became unsafe for us, so our classes were held in people’s homes. Our teachers protected us, and I vividly remember one teacher, Mr. Barlag, who literally stood between us and potential danger. It was in that moment that I knew one thing: I wanted to be like a Mr. Barlag. Now, decades later, I’ve come to understand that protecting a child is not just a matter of shielding her from bullets. Ultimately, protecting children means ensuring that they are given options that allow them to believe in their own self-worth and to discover the path that will help them realize their true potential. Whether I was studying economics or considering careers in journalism or pediatrics, that desire to protect children's options remained constant. I walked through the doors of a school 27 years ago, and never looked back.
What do you believe makes a great teacher?
I don't categorize teachers as "good" or "bad." Instead, I believe a teacher is someone who can truly see and hear a child and recognize their possibilities. It's about understanding and nurturing each child's potential. A great teacher is someone who strives to continually guide and support children, helping them grow and discover who they want to be.
You've chosen to focus on Middle School. What draws you to this age group in particular?
Middle school, the age group of 11 to 13, is a time of profound transition. It's when children are discovering who they are and who they want to become. It is a time that is at once joyous and uncertain, filled with bravado and vulnerability. Every day presents a challenge, but when you look very closely, there are also those small moments of triumph. Those are the moments so unique to the middle school years.
Can you share what appealed to you about Shipley and your role as Head of Middle School here?
Shipley holds a special place in my heart. I used to see the School from my Bryn Mawr College dormitory across the street and often wondered what was behind its doors. When I learned about the opportunity to lead Shipley's Middle School, it felt like a homecoming. Shipley's motto, "Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing," resonated deeply with my mission to protect children's options.
What excites you most about the coming year?
What excites me the most is getting to know the students. In these few weeks, I’ve listened to children present stories of their family in history, write passages titled “This I Believe” in English, and read their interpretations of “Carpe Diem” in Latin. I’ve heard them cheer excitedly during Assembly over what “price is right.” From time to time, there is heaviness in our world; their sheer joy is uplifting.
Have you been surprised by anything or encountered anything remarkable about the Shipley community so far?
Coming most recently from six years in Africa, what has struck me is the universality of being a child, regardless of cultural backgrounds. Children share common hopes, dreams, and vulnerabilities. It's a reminder that, at our core, there is something that unites us all.
Could you share something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I once danced in front of the princesses of Thailand. I've always loved dance, and that moment was one of my first choreography attempts; I was 8 years old! People might also be surprised to learn that my husband and I enjoy riding a Harley!
What are your favorite hobbies outside of work?
My husband and I love to travel. Traveling allows us to embrace the beauty of the unexpected and the joy of being lost in new environments. One of my favorite things to do anytime I go to any country is to head to the local market and eat what the people eat there, even if it looks very, very different from anything I'm used to.
What’s your favorite film?
Roman Holiday. It's a classic film starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.The movie tells the beautiful story of a princess who experiences life as a commoner for a day and, in the end, chooses duty over love. Regardless of how many times I've watched this film, I’m still torn about what constitutes a happy ending. There's a part of me that believes the princess did the right thing by prioritizing her duty to her country over her love. However, there's also that nagging thought that maybe she should have chosen love instead. Then, as a teacher, I can't help but think, can you not find a compromise? There are numerous potential endings, and I'm not entirely sure what would define a "happy ending," but I absolutely adore this movie. Plus it’s in Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world!