“Mr. and Mrs. Schilling – we need you to come to school… there seems to be an issue”. This is how my first grade year began. A rather frantic parental call, and a hastily scheduled meeting. “David has a problem with the truth”, my teacher nervously informed my parents. “He told everyone his father has a hot air balloon, and not only has he ridden in it, but he gets to actually fly it around. How can we help him build connections to his peers without the need for ridiculous stories?” At that point, my parents calmly let my teacher know that yes, my father did own a balloon, and yes, by putting a milk crate at the center of the basket for me to stand on, I could reach the controls.
Friends, that was a defining moment in my path toward becoming an educator. Even at age 6, I started to understand the need for schools to recognize and celebrate individual differences in children, and that every child has a story to tell, and a life full of teachable moments. 34 years later, I still haven’t really strayed from that goal of working to create learning environments that keep students at the center. Also, someday I still plan to learn how to fly that balloon and earn my pilot’s license.
Before coming to Danville, I worked as Cabot School’s principal for the past three years, and taught at Cabot for 6 years prior to that, in varying capacities from conservation education with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, to building an entrepreneurship and environmental science program linked to the humanities. Before Cabot, I worked in various outdoor and experiential education programs, including the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mountain Classroom and the Canyonlands Field Institute of Moab, Utah. I also have spent time as an Americorps educator in an East Harlem, NY, middle school, and managing volunteer programs along the Appalachian Trail, as well as in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. I live in Woodbury with my wife Marilla, and dog Porter, a corgi mix strongly resembling a cross between a bat and a pig.
In thinking about what makes school work well, I share the core beliefs of the Great Schools Partnership, an organization working with schools in our region to improve learning for all:
Educators create great schools. Skilled teachers and strong leaders matter far more than funding levels or facilities.
Every school can improve. Learning is a lifelong process—for students and educators. The highest performing schools are continually learning, improving, and seeking out what works (but avoiding change for change’s sake).
I’d also add one of my own – Schools don’t exist in a bubble – community matters. Any great school needs to have the support of and partnership with the surrounding community, and must be open and welcoming.
From everything I’ve seen so far at Danville, these values are shared and embraced by your community. I’m tremendously excited to get to know you better, and look forward to a fantastic year ahead. I’ll have some specifics about the start of school to you by the end of the week.
Principal, Danville School