By Mia Deckman
Many people couldn’t imagine working with their spouse, because sharing the same work and home environments is difficult. For instance, if you and your spouse get into a fight at home, you may find it hard to distinguish where your personal life and home life separate.
However, that doesn’t apply to administrators Mr. and Mrs. Shank. They not only work well together here at Woodlynde, but they also enjoy it. Mr. and Mrs. Shank have been working together for over 20 years, ever since Mrs. Shank came to Woodlynde as a math teacher.
“I think it is fun to problem solve together,” Mr. Shank stated. “It's fun because our styles are so different.”
Although they see each other in the hallway and during meetings, they have separate specialty areas. Mrs. Shank has been the leader of the Upper School for four years. She is immersed in creating schedules, helping students, and supporting parents.
On the other hand, Mr. Shank is the Dean of Students and is in charge of disciplining students. He also acts as a student advocate, helps students problem solve, and guides them through social, emotional and physical challenges.
Mr. and Mrs. Shank are high school sweethearts and have been together since 1974.
Before working at Woodlynde, they had different career paths lined up. Mr. Shank worked in the Marple Newtown School District as a middle school Health and Physical Education teacher. Meanwhile, Mrs. Shank was the Director of Nursing at Brandywine Hospital, back when it was a trauma center.
They first worked together in the restaurant industry shortly after getting married. They also reffed soccer and basketball together in their spare time.
As their daughter Kelly grew more involved in sports, Mrs. Shank wanted to be able to support Kelly at her games, but that was not a possibility because her job as Director of Nursing required around-the-clock attention.
That’s when Mrs. Shank came to the Woodlynde community by taking the math teacher position. At the time, Mrs. Shank had already been quite involved in the Woodlynde community chaperoning field trips and attending different functions. When a job position opened up, she jumped at the opportunity to change her lifestyle and career.
“I came because I really wanted to work with kids and I really wanted to work around kids,” Mrs. Shank stated. “In 1985, I was hired to coach Middle School Boys Basketball. The next thing I knew, I was helping chaperone different student activities and wanted to spend my days as a teacher at Woodlynde School.”
She went on to become a learning specialist. Then she accepted the position of Director of Admissions, and now she is the Assistant Head of School for grades 9-12.
Before Mr. Shank came to Woodlynde in 1980, in addition to having a teaching job, he worked in the restaurant industry as a waiter and bartender, as well as at a concrete manufacturing plant and a golf course.
When he came to Woodlynde, he worked as a science teacher, and a health and physical education teacher. He also served as head of the physical education department and as athletic director. He also coached numerous sports such as wrestling, boys volleyball, soccer, basketball, and girls softball.
Mr. and Mrs. Shank think sharing the same work environment is beneficial to their life and relationship. They respect each other's boundaries when they disagree on a topic, but see eye-to-eye on many subjects because they share plenty of the same morals.
Mrs. Shank said, “We are perfectly comfortable with disagreeing at Woodlynde and don’t take it home.”
Mr. Shank stated that they work so well together because of their opposite personalities. “We balance each other out, value highly each other’s opinion, and respect each other,” he said. “It works well.”
Director of Athletics Mr. Purdy noted,“You can’t tell that they are husband and wife because they act very professional.”
The only time something got between Mr. and Mrs. Shank was over eight years ago when Mrs. Shank was working as a learning specialist.
One of Mrs. Shank’s students had been assigned a detention and Mrs. Shank tried to convince Mr. Shank, as the Dean of Students, to cancel the detention.
However, he refused to do so. Later, Mrs. Shank realized that she overstepped into his realm of discipline and that was the last time that ever happened.
Mrs. Shank’s job as Assistant Head of School often requires long days that even flow into the weekend.
When asked if it is difficult to separate their personal lives from their professional lives, Mrs. Shank said, “I don't think so. I feel fortunate. Because I work so many hours, I don't know if I would see him if we didn’t work together.”