Steve Piltch
Shipley's Head of School
If this is your first visit to Shipley, I envy you, remembering my own first experience in March of 1992.

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Letter from Steve Piltch, Head of School

List of 36 news stories.

  • Letter from Steve Piltch - December 2018

    During a cooking lesson with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, Steve noticed a deep connection between her work and what we believe at Shipley.  "As she spoke, she emphasized that her background in science, math, and psychology were important factors in becoming a successful chef. She reinforced my belief that broad, integrated learning and love for your work are at the heart of excelling in whatever you do."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - November 2018

    Thanksgiving is Steve's favorite holiday, and for good reason. It's a time for reflecting on what matters most and being grateful for what's around you. He recalls All-School President Henry Katz's words at the Thanksgiving All-School Assembly, about the small things being important and offers a few suggestions of little things to make others (and ourselves) a little calmer during the upcoming holiday season.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - October 2018

    October proved to be a very busy yet fulfilling month. Dr. Piltch reflects, "It’s in experiences like this that I realize that as important as the academic program is, it's often the things that go with it—such as field trips and other co-curricular activities—that make a difference in people's lives."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - September 2018

    In this month's letter, Steve expresses his gratitude to the Shipley community for a wonderful start to the new year. "In particular, thanks go to parents and guardians who have been there not only to support their own children, but also to reach out and find ways to make a difference in others’ lives and in the School."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - August 2018

    Steve's summer was full of great nostalgia and special importance, including the wedding of his daughter and beginning his final year at Shipley.  "Everywhere I turned, I found myself doing things that forced me to reflect on the many years I’ve had the privilege to spend as the Head of Shipley." 
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - May 2018

    The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, and Steve is both nostalgic about the past year and looking forward to what the Class of 2018 will accomplish.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - April 2018

    Over Shipley's spring break, Steve and his wife traveled to China to visit Shipley families and schools in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. While his trip was one he will never forget, the most important lesson he learned was to remain open to and receptive of those who come from a different background, have different views, or simply look different.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - March 2018

    Steve reflects on Shipley's March All-School Assembly, which highlighted moments of Shipley pride. "My hat is off to each and every student mentioned above and to all of our students who are seeking and finding excellence on an individual or collective basis."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - February 2018

    After noticing a family out to dinner together engaging with their phones instead of each other, Steve reflected on the increased use of technology in our everyday lives and the effects it has on us as people.  "Many of us—and I very much include myself—rely on our phones (and other technology) way too often."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - January 2018

    January's All-School Assembly celebrated and honored Black History Month with a focus on courage. Steve recounts the special moments of the assembly and the powerful speeches given by Upper School students, "I was amazed by virtually everything that happened."
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  • Head of School Dr. Steve Piltch Announces Retirement

    Shipley's Head of School, Dr. Steve Piltch, has announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 academic year. Read letters from Steve and Brooksley Wylie, Chair of Shipley's Board of Trustees.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - December 2017

    Inspired by a recent trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Steve is committed to the idea that we at Shipley must do what we can to fight the attitudes and behaviors associated with hatred, racism, and bigotry. "We continue to witness examples of discrimination, hatred, and disdain on a regular basis in virtually all walks of life. To facilitate growth and progress, we must be willing to push our own community and others to deal with the issues in a direct and open manner."
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  • Steve enjoyed his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, with all three of his children and some extended family this year. His experiences on Thanksgiving made him think about many other experiences that took place at Shipley in the last month, for which he is especially grateful.

    Letter from Steve Piltch - November 2017

    Steve enjoyed his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, with all three of his children and some extended family this year. His experiences on Thanksgiving made him think about many other experiences that took place at Shipley in the last month, for which he is especially grateful.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - October 2017

    October was a busy month at Shipley! Steve touches on a few of the important events Shipley hosted, including the Positive Education launch, an anti-bullying workshop in the Middle School, and Shipley's accreditation visit from Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - September 2017

    Fall is a busy time at Shipley, and in this month's letter, Steve shares some of his favorite memories from the All-School Assembly and Super Saturday.  He also looks forward to the October 11th Positive Education Community Launch with Dr. James Pawelski.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - August 2017

    In this month's letter, Steve shares his excitement for the beginning of the school year, reflects on his summer, and shares a few important thoughts on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. 
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - May 2017

    As the school year closes, Steve finds inspiration in learning about the Shipley experience from many members of the community, and shares an important thought for the summer break, “The time to reflect often results in greater growth than being overscheduled.”
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - April 2017

    The end of the academic year is quickly approaching, and as schedules get hectic, Steve reminds us to slow down and enjoy the moment. He talks about the student-planned Impact Day activities in each division, and the last All-School Assembly of the year, the highly anticipated Oaks and Acorns celebration.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - March 2017

    Inspired by the NCAA March Madness tournament, Steve stresses the importance of balance in the lives of our student-athletes. "We should have them in programs that stress the importance of balance in their lives – after all, even for athletes able to earn a scholarship, an athletics career will rarely last beyond college graduation."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - February 2017

    In this month's letter, Steve speaks to the "remarkably positive" atmosphere and sense of things at Shipley. From a very successful Swamp Night, to athletics championships, to the fifth grade Think, Care, Act Fair, February has been a wonderful month for the Shipley community.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - January 2017

    Dr. Piltch reflects fondly on time shared with two dear colleagues who recently passed in this month's letter. "Coach and Graham were birds of a feather. Although I do not think either one of them would have identified himself as a role model or mentor, they both used their roles as educators to impact people beyond the level that anyone could expect or anticipate."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - December 2016

    In this month's letter, Steve shares the details from a recent trip to Boston, including a visit to his childhood home and the wonderful experience he had with the current owners. As we all look to 2017, Steve offers his best wishes and reminds us to slow down and enjoy the precious moments with friends and family.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch - November 2016

    In this month's letter Steve reflects on the recent Presidential election and cites Shipley's commitment to appreciating each member of our community and to being a safe, supportive, and understanding environment for everyone regardless of background.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, October 2016

    In this month's letter, Steve expresses his joy in the changing of the seasons and recalls Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea during a recent walk on the beach. He relates Santiago's life skills to those we strive to teach our children and students. "By paying attention to their emotional development and their practical skills, we enhance the possibility that they will thrive as adults and deal with their challenges as successfully as Santiago."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, September 2016

    In this month's letter, Steve shares his excitement about the beginning of the school year, reflects on the events of 9/11, and speaks to how we can all discuss the upcoming election effectively.

    "In this environment, we find ourselves compelled to hope for a systematic change that brings an exchange of ideas (not just in the election but also everywhere) in place of today’s exchange of negativity. We can only accomplish this work if we hold ourselves in the elective process to higher standards. While there may not be a clear path to doing so nationally, we will make that effort here at school by being open to and understanding of a range of points of view."
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, August 2016

    Steve looks ahead to the 2016-2017 school year and outlines new programs and policies which speak to Shipley's mission.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, May 2016

    Steve Piltch talks about the Shipley Method and how he saw the results of that process in four culminating events of the year. He says, “Such events are, in essence, rites of passage that will provide wonderful memories for those involved (and their families) and will serve as the basis for our students to take new risks and better develop their confidence to explore and creativity so that they meet the challenges they will face moving forward.” Read the letter.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, April 2016

    Steve discusses the development of good decision making skills in our students, and how we can teach them how to responsibly deal with and learn from the consequences of bad decisions. He says, “If we can find a way to help our students consider the ramifications of their actions in advance and behave in a consistent manner, both during the times of struggle and the times of success, then we are helping them become well-rounded individuals who are prepared for the world.”
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, March 2016

    Steve explains the difference between "hard" and "soft" skills, how both are important in education, and why they are both necessary for success in life. He also offers up a sneak peek at the new view afforded by Shipley's Learning and Research Center, slated to open in April.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, February 2016

    Steve discusses Shipley’s commitment to fostering a constructive college admissions process for our students and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s recent report on transforming the mainstream college admissions process, “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions.”
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, January 2016

    Steve shares highlights from his recent family vacation to Costa Rica, where he faced his fear of heights and was reminded of the intellectual risks we ask our students to take every day at Shipley.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, December 2015

    Steve shares his thoughts on Shipley’s integrated service learning program and its impact on students. He also finds a powerful metaphor in Shipley’s winter concerts for how we can move beyond the threat of identity politics to create an environment of inclusion and peace in our world.

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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, November 2015

    Steve tells us why he is thankful for the Shipley community and shares the sentiments of others who spoke about what they appreciate about Shipley at the recent Thanksgiving All School Assembly.
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, October 2015

    Steve Piltch
    Steve discusses the distinction between communicating and connecting, and how technology and social media affect both. He urges us, “We should work to use the phone and social media as tools to improve communication and enhance functioning in the world around us, not as the defining component of our social existence.”
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, September 2015

    Steve thanks the community for a successful Super Saturday and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Shipley Commons, and discusses the visit of alumnus Robb Armstrong ’81, the creator of the syndicated cartoon Jump Start. He says, “When Robb shared his story, he brought a smile to my face. He noted that his best work and his life’s dream to become a syndicated cartoonist would not have happened had he not been pushed to do his best work, forced to create his own ideas, encouraged to learn from his disappointments, empowered to develop confidence, and emboldened to deal with the difficult challenges he faced at Shipley (and in his life). Because of this experience, his passion for art and cartooning became the deeply rooted learning that we speak of and believe in here at Shipley.”
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  • Letter from Steve Piltch, August 2015

    Steve welcomes back the community for the 2015-2016 school year and discusses Wallace Nichols’ book Blue Mind, which explores the restorative power of water, in relation to Shipley’s Social, Emotional, and Ethical Development (SEED) program.
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Shipley has a long tradition of preparing students for college and for full participation in the world. We also have a long tradition of supporting diversity and of encouraging each student’s development as an individual.
A student’s deep passion for learning can so often be credited to an educator with a genuine love for teaching. And at Shipley, arguably no one loves his or her work more than Steve Piltch, Head of School.

For more than two decades, Steve Piltch has led Shipley with enthusiasm, dedication and humility. In doing so, he has inspired those around him to always seek to improve and to find what is in the best interest of the Shipley community. “My job is to spur passion and interest, to be compassionate and understanding, and to move people to do the best work they can do, so that we can do the best we can for every student in the school,” he says.

With that generous philosophy at the heart of his work, Steve has served the school through an era full of change, growth and stability, and continues to look towards the future—always with the welfare of Shipley students in mind.

“For me, the job is about doing is what is best for our students and the people in our community,” he says. Steve’s own upbringing, education, and early work experience inspire this keen commitment to the wellbeing of not only students but also of everyone in a school community.”

Steve’s awareness of the importance of education was kindled when he was very young. He grew up in Greater Boston as one of nine children. Looking back, he says his mother was one of the greatest educators he’s ever seen. Through his family’s commitment to education, he learned the value of academics early on, excelled at school, and moved forwards on his path to attend Williams College.

During college, Steve was unsure of what he wanted to do when he graduated. He contemplated lots of possibilities. Going into his senior year, his academic advisor at Williams asked him the right questions at the right time that sparked the idea of pursuing a career in education. He noted: “My conversations with my advisor reinforced for me that everything I loved – children, athletics, learning, community, and academics --- revolved around schools. The conversation empowered me to pursue something I might have really wanted to do, but had not yet consciously decided to do.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Steve was offered a position at Choate Rosemary Hall, a highly respected boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. Though a few preconceived ideas about independent schools gave Piltch pause, he accepted the position. “My perception when I was really young—wrongly, by the way—was that the only people who went to independent schools were either really wealthy or really troubled, or perhaps both,” he says.

Once Steve began working with students at Choate Rosemary Hall, his passion for teaching ignited into fully formed resolve towards a career as an educator. Soon after arriving, he knew that teaching (education) would be his lifelong pursuit. “I loved everything about it,” he says, “I got to teach, I got to coach, I got to advise, I got to grow.”

During his introductory time at Choate, Steve immersed himself in campus life. “To this day, I’ve never worked harder than I did in my first few years,” he says, “I taught four or five sections, I coached three sports, I advised two or three groups, I was a dorm advisor for 10 or 15 kids, and I loved every minute of it.”

Steve was hooked. He knew he wanted to spend his life as an educator, and, more specifically, he aspired to one day be the head of a school. Choate gave him the chance to test the waters of administration, too, as a dean. “I absolutely made my share of mistakes all the way through! But people were supportive and I grew,” he says.

With the experience of Choate and an eye towards administration, Steve pursued graduate studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (HGSE) in Counseling and Consulting Psychology, and now holds two Masters degrees in education and a Doctorate in education from Harvard University.

While he studied at HGSE, Steve concurrently pursued his passion for sports with a position at Harvard as an assistant coach of men’s squash and then the head coach of the women's squash team. “I loved every minute of it,” he says. For the next nine years he would coach squash at Harvard, eventually becoming the head coach of both the women’s and men’s teams and an assistant director of athletics.

On the first day of Harvard orientation in 1983, Steve also met the woman who would later become his wife, Sunny Greenberg. Steve describes Sunny as “a great educator and spectacular human being” and who later would join him at Shipley as an English teacher.

As Steve wrapped up his studies at Harvard, he began his search for a school that’s principles of education aligned with his own. “I knew not to take a job just to take a job,” he says. “The philosophical fit had to be right.”

Fortunately for Shipley, after his first interview on a rainy day in March 1992, Steve knew quickly that Shipley would be a perfect fit. “I fell in love with the place, honestly,” he says, “I loved what [Shipley] was about—it was about challenging and supporting kids. It was about appreciating kids as individuals. It was about offering them opportunities.”

Now, Steve is one of the longest-standing heads of school in the region, but to him, the time has flown by. “The only time I feel as old as I am is when I look in the mirror,” says Steve, who has seen his wife, Sunny, lead a thriving career as an English teacher at Shipley, and their three children, Matt, Ali and Jamie, all graduate from Shipley. “This has been a real family affair in a lot of ways.”

After attending Shipley, Steve and Sunny’s son Matt graduated from Williams College in 2012 and now works for Deloitte in Boston. Two years after Matt, Ali also graduated from Williams College and now works at Bain & Company. In June 2013, Jamie graduated from Shipley, and he is now enrolled at Harvard.

But it’s hardly only family accomplishments that have marked Steve’s time at Shipley. “Success is not simply about getting the grade, or winning the game,” he says. Instead, he believes it is about the process to get there and what can come from that top grade or best game: “The milestones I look to revolve around kids and their development. If we do our jobs well, our students learn at least as much from the process as they do from the results. In fact, good process maximizes the chance of achieving great results.”

Steve notes that education has changed in a lot of ways. "It’s not only about the reading and writing, but also about the character development and emotional literacy.” According to him, if kids learn to think critically and express themselves clearly, they will more likely have the chance to develop "a strong sense of their ethical domain."

"I think the easiest thing to do is to teach our students how to think," he says, "how to do the academic piece. I also believe that the skills they need to learn to function and succeed go beyond the academics. In addition to being motivated and committed and striving for achievement and excellence, our students need to develop empathy and resilience, and passion and compassion to meet the challenges and make a difference."

To go about helping students develop an aptitude not only for academics, but also for morals and ethics, gets to the heart of the Shipley mission—a commitment to educational excellence, the love of learning, and compassionate participation in the world.

Ultimately, Steve simply strives for Shipley to be a place where its students can be appreciated as individuals and thrive. “I hope what I’ve done is to provide a clear vision, and a clear sense of a commitment to what the school’s mission is about, and hopefully the opportunity for growth for everybody and the ways to get it done.

“I’ve been remarkably lucky. I’m surrounded by gifted and dedicated colleagues, by a great board of trustees, by a knowledgeable and committed parent body, and by students that I think are first rate. They are the ones who make things happen at Shipley and who define this wonderful school. I couldn’t ask for more,” says Steve. I love my job, and I love our community.
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.