The Shipley Magazine

Dave Samson ’95: Prioritizing Restorative Practices in Education

Aaron Dalton '94
Imagine growing up with terrariums on the kitchen table and hatchling trout in the sink. That’s the sort of childhood that Dave Samson ’95 enjoyed thanks to his mother, who taught in Shipley’s Lower School before becoming a science teacher at Wayne Elementary. Seeing his mother’s love for learning was a huge factor in setting him on the path to a career in education. 

Samson was also inspired by many of his teachers at Shipley, including Kay Francis Graff ’54 in math, Kristin Jaffe and Jamie Neilson in English, Lura Coleman Wampler ’56 in chemistry, Tony Morinelli in theater, and Chris Wagner in art. “They had an ability to connect with all sorts of different students and figure out how to motivate and engage them,” says Samson.

After serving in administrative and teaching roles at Rowland Hall day school in Utah and Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania, Samson recently became Head of Upper School at Brookwood School in Massachusetts. He credits Steve Piltch, former Head of School at Shipley, and Tom Nammack, former Head of Upper School, for being invaluable mentors through the years.

At Brookwood, Samson places great emphasis on restorative practices. Instead of punishing students with detention for breaking rules, Samson feels it’s more important to give students an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and find ways to repair the harm by mending relationships that may have been impacted.

“To be a great educator, you have to constantly learn and be flexible. You have to know your subject, but also…let students’ curiosity shape where the class is going. Most of all, you have to love children,” says Samson. “It’s going to be messy at times and they will make poor choices, but then it’s going to be amazing, and you’re going to tear up at the progress and growth they make.”

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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.