WELCOME TO DURHAM ACADEMY

Michael Ulku-Steiner
Head of School
Michael.Ulku-Steiner@da.org

About Michael

I have spent the better part of two decades as a member of this community — in various roles including teacher, advisor, coach, administrator, Head of School, weather prognosticator, and (most importantly) parent. My family and I have returned twice to DA after stints overseas. Among the reasons we're thrilled to be back: 

  • Durham Academy attracts, supports, and empowers the strongest faculty possible — creative, caring, generous professionals who strive to change lives, not just raise test scores or open doors to universities. Our mission compels us to prepare students for "moral, happy, productive lives."
  • Students here can be their most unique and best selves. We like "weird." We expect students to chase passions in many directions. In the words of one senior during his exit interview: "DA does a great job of supporting the ventures of students. Even if you fall on your face doing something, you still feel supported doing it." 
  • Ours is a community of strivers – families dedicated to learning, teachers passionate about their fields of study, students eager to throw themselves into their classes. Whether because of our location (surrounded by world-class universities and research facilities) or our faculty (many of whom have invested decades in their courses or extracurriculars), the DA culture aims for excellence. Our students are remarkably willing to work for it.  
  • We connect. DA values and prioritizes relationships — among students, between teachers and students, and in the network of varied families who entrust their children to us every day. With similar vigor, we connect with Durham and the broader community in ways that reflect our interdependence.

Durham Academy offers an academic program as strong as any in the country. Our students carry that forward and more from their time on our campus. 

  • They learn respect for all cultures and ethnicities
  • They build friendships that last decades and span continents.
  • They develop grit by stretching and challenging themselves — trying, failing, and trying again in an atmosphere of trust and support. 
  • They practice giving back in an immersive culture of gratitude
  • They earn confidence in their most courageous, compassionate, and capable selves. 

A website welcome message can only scratch the surface of the DA experience. What is it really like to live and learn in this community? Watch through the eyes of the Pastor-Valverde family above. Read my Heads Up blog, visit the DA Newsroom, or take a deeper dive into DA's past, present, and future through our magazine The Record.

The best way to know DA? Come visit. We hope to meet you in person soon and look forward to sharing our remarkable school community with you. 

Sincerely, 
Michael 

Why DA?
An independent, coeducational day school,  pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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