Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

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He was a good man.

Today we learned of the passing of Robert “Bob” Johnston, Headmaster of Durham Academy from 1969 to 1977. Our hearts go out to his family. Our spirits lift up as we remember one of the most principled, purposeful, and generous educators in our school’s history.

I never met Bob Johnston, but his reputation and legacy make me proud to serve Durham Academy and eager to cover some ground with the baton I now carry.

Consider Bob’s immense impact in just eight years of Headmastering at Durham Academy. He was at the helm when DA launched our Upper School program, built our Ridge Road campus, graduated our first Senior class, established the Hill Center, and funded our first scholarships. Hundreds of Durham Academy graduates point to Bob as “that one special teacher…

Posted by mulkus on Tuesday January 27, 2015
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It’s not about where you come from but . . .

Yesterday we hosted about forty student applicants to our Middle and Upper Schools.

As I put myself into the shoes of these visitors (nervous and curious as they confirmed or debunked their previous impressions of Durham Academy), I came across the words of one of our Seniors, quoted last week at our Upper School transition event for families of our current 8th Graders (for whom the Upper School can seem as foreign as it might for any non-DA students):

The Upper School is not about the clothes you wear, the friend group you may or may not belong to, or the braces you may or may not have. It’s about the heart you have, and the passion in it for the will to make a difference in the world – starting with your own life and your own environment. . . it’s not about where you …

Posted by mulkus on Wednesday January 21, 2015
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Why we play


Thirty six hours ago, our school climbed one of the most inspiring emotional peaks of its history. The valley that preceded it was just as deep – and profound valleys remain ahead of us. But Friday’s “Middle School Spirit Night” was a shining example of community in action.

The basic story is here, in the Durham Herald’s recap article: “DA Packs House For Injured Players.”   

More of the story is below, in the grateful email sent yesterday to our faculty from Athletic Director Steve Engebretsen.

34 years X 400+ DA athletic events attended per year.

Throw in dozens of amazing concerts, plays, and special programs and assemblies in those years.

Add at least 100 chaperoning duties during that time.

Through all those DA …

Posted by mulkus on Sunday January 18, 2015
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Building futures

On Thursday and Friday I joined 55 parents, teachers, alumni, trustees, administrators, parents of alumni, and community members for an intense and productive strategic planning retreat to chart the course toward DA’s future. Our days were informed by four months of surveys and listening sessions. I look forward to sharing the fruits of the retreat in the coming weeks.

For today, I’ll share news of similar future-building from our partner organization Student U.

Founded just eight years ago and with its first class of students thriving in colleges and community colleges, Student U has grown more quickly, and more wisely, than anyone might have predicted.

Below is part of a message from Alexandra Zagbayou (pictured at left), who attended our DA strategic planning retreat last…

Posted by mulkus on Monday January 12, 2015
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Two ways in two weeks

In a fortnight, we get a day off from school and a pair of opportunities to make good on some New Year's resolutions - or simply make good.

DA families often volunteer together at one or both of the following MLK Day events:

1. The Stop Hunger Now food packing event. Lively and satisfying, this two-hour family-friendly activity packed nearly 25,000 meals for emergency relief last year. Click here to reserve spots for you and your family - and/or to sponsor a few hundred meals. Or click here to learn more about Raleigh-based Stop Hunger Now organization.  

2. The Book Harvest Dream Big Book Drive (Monday, January 19 from 1-4 pm at the Carolina Theater in Durham). The Triangle’s largest single-day book drive has gathered 60,000 books for young readers in …

Posted by mulkus on Tuesday January 6, 2015 at 09:05AM
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