As everyone should be aware, Germantown Friends School is welcoming a new headmaster for the first time in twenty- five years. Dana Okeson Weeks came to us from Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked mostly in the high school. She has one daughter who is in ninth grade and enjoys cooking, running, reading and working out. I had the pleasure to interview her about her experiences at GFS so far.
Dana’s first impression of GFS was a positive one.
She said GFS was, “A place where students are the focus” much like Saint Ann’s, where she had been for 23 years. Dana said the hardest thing about her arrival at GFS is that after her 23 years at Saint Ann’s, she was used to knowing everything about all the students in the relatively small school; being so new to GFS, she doesn’t have that connection with the students that takes years to acquire. There is no doubt that she will be able to gain that knowledge of the school and its students quickly.
Dana lived in Philly growing up and attended Merion Mercy Academy where she felt her education was very controlled and autocratic. In contrast, Dana loved Saint Ann’s warm community and student driven curriculum. Her experience there beat the traditional school mentality out of her. Dana said that the transition from Saint Ann’s to GFS has been very easy, considering the schools are like in many ways. Both Saint Ann’s and GFS honor the students individually and each individual’s learning experience. Simply both schools put children first. One big difference, between GFS and Saint Ann’s is the lack of the Quaker religion at Saint Ann’s. Dana acknowledged that one of the reasons she chose to accept the job was because of the Quaker values; she mentioned that the SPICES mnemonic (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Equality and Stewardship, for those who don’t know) made it easier for her to learn and practice Quakerism. Dana recently held an assembly for the Middle School about simplicity. She said that for her, simplicity was learning how to swim and how in touch she felt with herself and the earth when she was swimming. Acknowledging that simplicity means different things to different people, Dana described simplicity ” as the serene moments of quiet where it feels like everything has gone away.”
Dana has always wanted to be a teacher, but never really thought about being a Head Master or Principal. One thing is clear she”LOVES SCHOOL”, and everything that goes with it. She also loves Greek and Latin and literature and philosophy, as well and the sciences, which is what she taught. Her greatest asset to the community is her deep caring for each individual students learning experience, and she shares this value with Dick Wade, who has been a tremendous help to her in adjusting to the new environment. Dana thinks that GFS is unique and she is thrilled to be here.
Photos by Michael Branscom and Laura Jamieson