Top Teacher 2020: Sam Steinberg

Photo by Tessa Marie Images

These Top Teachers went above and beyond in a time of crisis. 

Sam Steinberg is a social studies teacher at Delaware Valley Friends School.

In a previous life, Sam Steinberg worked in finance in New York City. On a nightly basis, his wife would come home from her job as a special education teacher and share “these wonderful stories about her students, the progress they’re making,” he recalls.

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Steinberg knew he needed a change. “Teachers were these perfect, saintly creatures,” he says. “And from my outside perspective looking in, there was no way I could measure up.”

He was wrong. For the past 16 years, Steinberg has used his new vocation to help students with learning differences, particularly those with language-based issues. He was inspired by his younger sister, who is dyslexic. Witnessing the struggles she faced put him in a unique position to help others. “LD students need new, creatively different ways to learn that often take them far more energy, struggle and time,” he says.

Steinberg eventually found his way to Delaware Valley Friends School, where he teaches middle school social studies. “I am a history buff,” he says. “I love it.”

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When classes went virtual, Steinberg didn’t miss a beat. He’d already been filming his lessons for years as a way of sharing them with parents and students. He begins each virtual class with music, a fun visual backdrop, or something else to draw students in. “This transition became more about how I keep my classroom environment authentic,” he says.

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Steinberg had already developed the R.U.N. process, a note-taking system that’s been adopted school-wide for age-appropriate students. He says it’s the only note-taking system out there for those with learning disabilities. And while kids are tech-savvy, Steinberg couldn’t expect his middle schoolers to be familiar with all the ins and outs of virtual platforms. So he put together step-by-step instructions using words and images. “I’m constantly reminding myself that I have to see things through the eyes and the minds of these students,” he says.

Steinberg has had a profound impact on his students—so much so that the grandparents of a DVFS alum have endowed a $1 million scholarship fund in his name. “That is just so lasting,” he says.

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