Whitson Takes on New Leadership as Palma Scholars Head

By Jubilee Lopez ’15

The day before he left for the Chile and Argentina global trip, Dave Whitson, current Upper School history teacher and director of global education, received an email from Upper School head Dan Griffiths informing him that next year he will begin his new job as the director of the Palma Scholars program, replacing Chad Faber. Many students and faculty were surprised by this news. In fact, Whitson was too.

Dave Whitson enjoying the most recent kidnap day. (Photo: Kadin Hecht ’15)

Dave Whitson enjoying the most recent kidnap day. (Photo: Kadin Hecht)

In his newest job, which will be his fifth in the last 10 years, Whitson will be able to take on an administrative role while working in the classroom, something that is really important to him.

Whitson said that he is excited by the “mandate to be more creative” in his classes and to work closely with students while pushing himself. He acknowledges the position as an opportunity to advance as an educator within the Catlin Gabel community.

“As a teacher it is hard to poke your head above the horizon or think beyond your own classroom,” said Whitson. He hopes to embrace this “rare opportunity” and continue to influence teaching and learning at Catlin Gabel.

He says that he foresees many challenges and questions such as: “How do you look at an eighth grader and see where they’re going to be in four years?” and “How do you maintain a really positive relationship with the students in the program while having them in the classroom and in a mentor?”

“The [Palma Scholars] seminar by its very nature will force me to take on content that is not in my area of expertise,” Whitson said.

While going through the application process, “I knew that I couldn’t allow myself to get emotionally invested and I went into the process telling myself that I am the underdog and I have nothing to lose,” Whitson added. Because of this mindset he came into the process with “all metaphorical guns blazing.” When asked if he was surprised by the news, Whitson exclaimed, “Totally!”

To clarify, Whitson does not dislike his current job. He explained, “I am leaving something I like for something I am more excited about.”

Starting next year Whitson will be teaching a semester of each Palma seminar class, Measuring Success – The Analytics Revolution and Sports and Human Rights, as well as his senior electives, Transitional Justice and 9/11.

Whitson is excited that he will be able to continue to teach his electives. “It’s cool that I still get to teach my senior electives. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to do that,” he commented.

Whitson said that he is “really attached” to the class of 2015 because he taught most of them as freshmen and sophomores. He also thinks that the situation next year is “ideal” because he will be able to come full circle with the first class of students he taught at Catlin Gabel.