The Shipley Magazine

Cannie Crysler Shafer ’74: How Can Schools Shape a Better World?

About Cannie Crysler Shafer ‘74
Cannie Crysler Shafer ’74 has had a long career as an educator in the Philadelphia area, starting as a fifth grade teacher at Episcopal Academy in the early days of coeducation there. She helped to build the school’s girls’ athletic program, founding the Inter-AC League for girls while coaching field hockey. She went on to serve in various administrative roles, including as Head of School. She has served on the boards of other schools, including Crossroads School, Church Farm School, and St. Peter's School. She also worked at Camp Susquehannock with her husband for 40 years before retiring as Directors. Shafer recently retired from Girard College as the Academic Dean for the Elementary/Middle School. She currently serves as a mentor in the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and as the Educational Director of Program at St Peter's School.

How do you think schools can shape a better world?
School culture can not be  static. Schools are complex places and need to constantly review their culture, goals, and objectives. While a school promotes mission and values, it must be mindful that the school is producing future citizens of an ever-changing world and its responsibility, along with that of a family, is to foster the growth of these young people into adulthood. Our children cannot be images from the past, but they must become doers in the future. Schools have enormous influence in children's lives. The school community needs continually to analyze the underlying norms and practices that support a student's experiences and learning. This requires reflection and sincere discourse. 

I believe that schools will and should continue to work as an agent of structure for society; to act as a force for positive change both locally and globally. The school community and "home,"  are the perfect pairing to foster this. 

This is a difficult time and one in which we must all listen and learn about cultural values, beliefs, and norms; we must accept the existence of practices that have occurred in the past that were damaging. It is necessary to challenge old assumptions and "re-boot" to ensure that school norms, curricula, and practices are effective for today but also serve our children’s futures. I do believe that education is “the way” to reshape society and can be a force for positive change in the world.

How did Shipley shape you?
I give credit back to my mother, not a native to Philadelphia, for choosing Shipley for me and my younger sister. I truly feel I learned what was expected of me, and what I needed to put into action with "Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing." Obviously, that motto meant different actions at different stages of development, but it was always what I felt I was striving to accomplish.

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.