July 16, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Hometown Hero: David Bryan – Educator and Adventurer:

David Bryan, the Head of School at New Roads School in Santa Monica, has spent most of his life in the classroom.

In thinking about his teaching he said, “Some of the most exciting moments I’ve had have been in the classroom. To be part of a moment when everyone is being passionate and even ferocious about the same ideas, to help people come together in their shared knowledge, is exciting. It’s like juggling and then seeing the pattern emerge.”

Teaching started simply as a way to get through grad school without paying. 

He was studying Law at SUNY Buffalo. Law School tuition was high and he decided to “go shopping” to see if he could find some financial help. 

He found help from The SUNY Communications Department when they accepted him as a PhD student and paid for all his courses, including the law classes.

Bryan had always been shy.

When he found out that to get his tuition paid he would be required to stand up in front of a classroom of college students and teach he almost gave up.  

However he didn’t want to lose what he saw as a great opportunity, so he gathered his courage, went into the classroom, and took roll. 

He hoped that would be a way into a conversation with his students.

Seeing the name Timothy Leary on the roster Bryan asked the student. 

“Are you related?”

The student looked questioningly at Bryan. 

He had no idea there was a famous Timothy Leary.  

Bryan was somewhat thrown and he jokingly asked the class, “Hey, do you guys know The Beatles?”

The class laughed. Bryan was relieved. He was more than relieved. 

“I liked the feeling of making the students laugh,” Bryan said. “I liked the interaction. It got me out of feeling uncomfortable.”

By the time he earned his law degree he had come to the conclusion that he didn’t have the temperament for practicing law. 

So he taught, he wrote, and he worked construction jobs. Then he and some friends went to Florida to live on a boat and work on boats.

“I lived on a 36’ Morgan sloop in south Florida and in the Caribbean,” he said. “Living on a boat makes you pay attention. There is always the demand of the ocean and that demand is ignored to one’s peril. You pay attention to the ocean and you pay attention to yourself. In fact, living on the ocean can be self -absorbing and over time it made me realize I needed to reenter the world. I was in the boat and reckoning with the idea of boat life and what’s next and the idea of teaching high school took hold of me hard.”

Bryan then started to research what he needed to do in order to teach high school. 

His mother was in California and he wanted to live near her. 

 “I loved my Mom,” he said. “She was amazing. She could figure out anything, she could fix the dishwasher and the washing machine. She was smart about money and investments. She loved her garden, especially her roses and her gladiolas. She hated housework. She and my father made it abundantly clear to me and to my brother that they loved us.”

LA Unified gave him a substitute teacher emergency credential. While he was subbing at LA Unified he was also looking for a full time job. 

He ran into Jack Zimmerman who had been a friend from college days.

Zimmerman was by then an educator and a therapist. 

He introduced Bryan to Paul Cummins, the Founder and Director of Crossroads School in Santa Monica. 

Cummins hired Bryan to teach Crossroads Middle School history, English and the mysteries classes – then an innovative and now a widely used curriculum for teaching human development and ethics.

Part of the ongoing discussion among faculty at Crossroads was how to make a Crossroads education available to all students who wanted it.

It was an idea Paul Cummins acted on and he started New Roads School to do just that.   Cummins formed the New Visions Foundation to provide support for his plan for the school and for an Educational Village.

Cummins asked David Bryan to be the Head of School at New Roads. 

It was an assignment Bryan gladly accepted. 

Bryan describes the work at New Roads as “super joyful.”

“The kids are fabulous,” he said. “They come to school because they want to be here and that’s an essential part of a learning environment.”

New Roads is a school that is genuinely diverse – racially, ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically.  

Diversity is recorded in school demographics and statistics. 

Bryan said the students and faculty have “embraced diversity.”

“It is lived in the daily life of the school,” he said. “At New Roads, students and faculty cross the invisible barriers that seem to exist in our society even though we all know they have no basis in fact. Another measure of our success as a school is that our kids are prepared for college and our students go to colleges all over the country. Even more important, they are prepared to take the next steps on the path of life.”

After 18 years of being the Head of School at New Roads, Bryan is retiring. 

He and his wife, the psychologist and educator Shelly Graham, are moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

Right now his plan is to create some space and see what fills it up. 

“I’ve had an adventurous life,” he said. “Now I’m doing what I always tell the kids to do, be open to having a new adventure.”

in Opinion
Related Posts

SM.a.r.t. Column: Food Water and Energy Part 1 of 3

July 14, 2024

July 14, 2024

Civilization, as we know it, requires many things, but the most critical and fundamental is an uninterrupted supply of three...

Letter to the Editor: Criticizing Israeli Policy Is Not Antisemitic

July 10, 2024

July 10, 2024

In the past several months, we’ve seen increasing protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza. We have also seen these protests...


July 7, 2024

July 7, 2024

We trust you are enjoying this holiday in celebration of Independence. Independence to be embraced, personally and civically, thru active...

SM.a.r.t Column: Santa Monica Under SCAG’s Boot

June 30, 2024

June 30, 2024

Four years ago, our esteemed colleague Mario Fonda-Bonardi wrote the prescient essay below when much of the legislative development juggernaut...

SM.a.r.t Column: The Up Zoning Scam (Part 2)

June 23, 2024

June 23, 2024

Last week’s SMart article  (https://smmirror.com/2024/06/sm-a-r-t-column-the-up-zoning-scam-part-1/)  discussed the ambitious 8895 units (including 6168 affordable units) that Santa Monica is required to...

SM.a.r.t Column: The Up Zoning Scam (Part 1)

June 16, 2024

June 16, 2024

Over the last few years, the State of California has mandated a massive upzoning of cities to create capacity for...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Shape Up – On Steroids

June 9, 2024

June 9, 2024

Nine years ago, SMa.r.t wrote a series of articles addressing the adaptive re-use of existing structures. We titled one “Shape...

SM.a.r.t Column: The Challenge of Running a City When City Staff Have Different Priorities

June 2, 2024

June 2, 2024

Living in a city has its perks, but it can be a real headache when the folks running the show...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path to Affordable Ownership in Santa Monica

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

[Note: our guest author today is Andres Drobny, a former Professor of Economics at the University of London, the former...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path Forward for Santa Monica: Part II

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024

As referenced in Part I of this article, the state’s use of faulty statistics and forceful legislation has left a...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path Forward for Santa Monica: Part I

May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

To quickly summarize, California grapples with an ongoing housing crisis spurred by state implementation of over 100 policies and mandates...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Where Will Our Huddled Masses Sleep? Navigating California’s Affordable Housing Mandates

May 5, 2024

May 5, 2024

Just as Lady Liberty beckons the “huddled masses” of immigrants to America, cities like Santa Monica have an ethical obligation...

SM.a.r.t Column: SMCLC SPEAKS

April 28, 2024

April 28, 2024

SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow) periodically invites guest columnists who have made a significant contribution to the...

SM.a.r.t Column: Building Modern Boxes Lacks Identity

April 21, 2024

April 21, 2024

In the relentless pursuit of modernity, cities worldwide have witnessed the rise of so-called architectural marvels in the form of...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Santa Monica Needs Responsible Urban and Architectural Design

April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024

[SMa.r.t. note: Eight years ago, our highly esteemed and recently-passed colleague Ron Goldman documented his thoughts on the need for...