Faculty Friday: David Gagnier

Dave’s experience and passion in libraries, literature, education and theatre performance & production in Canada came with him to Korea where he has been living and working since 2007. Dave has taught through all K-12 divisions of Korean education across schools in Suwon, Seoul and Jeju, and he is happy to be teaching now at Dwight School Seoul.

1. What is your role at Dwight School Seoul?  
This is now my third year at the school, and I’m a member of the Language A department teaching MYP and DP English Language and Literature. I’m also the CAS Coordinator and Extended Essay Coordinator here at Dwight.

2. What made you decide to work in an education setting? And what is your philosophy?
Schools exist to foster potential, so there’s no place more inspiring to work. I’m a strong believer in the potential of students (and teachers) moving through experiences of vulnerability to come out stronger on the other side, and the most valuable learning I have witnessed has come through allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in what we share. So, educating becomes a delicate balance of the safety and discomfort that are both required for us to grow as contributing members of an increasingly complex society.

3. What do you like the most about working at DSS?
The faculty and students here at Dwight are a truly international group of quality educators and learners, and it’s clear that they are committed to creating a strong school community. Despite the realities of a busy schedule, there is always room for a laugh. I also appreciate how our school exists in a fairly small geographical footprint. This creates the potential for a close community with all divisions sharing the space and it gives our older and younger students a lot of opportunities to work and learn together. The intricacies of the IB programme are also a constant source of challenge and reward, which is what authentic learning looks like.

4. What are your interests and or hobbies?
Living in Korea gives me a chance to enjoy a network of biking and hiking paths (I recently completed the Jeju Olle Trail), and I am glad that many in the Dwight community enthusiastically encourage fitness through use of our facilities here at the school. I also enjoy playing soccer, watching soccer, and, despite recent fortunes, supporting the only club worth supporting in North London, even though I work side-by-side with a Gooner. COYS!

5. Who or what inspires you and how? 
I’m consistently inspired by my current and former students, and I’m always excited to hear from those who have moved beyond high school into the next phases of life. When these people reach out to me to let me know what they’ve been up to, I’m always honoured, and it’s always a welcome gift. I’m also consistently inspired by the works of James Baldwin, Masha Gessen, Christopher Hitchens and other intellectual dissidents. Their work reminds me of the need for intelligent and authentic contrarianism and of the value of communicating well.

6. What is the best book that you have read lately? 
Reading Albert Camus’s The Plague, with all of its honesty and clarity, got me through the early stages of the pandemic – the best novel I’ve read in years. Aside from that which I’m reading for the classes I teach, I currently have three books on the go: Cantona: The Rebel who would be King, by Philippe Auclair (a biography of the striker from Marseilles), A Place of Greater Safety, by Hillary Mantel (a historical novel about key figures in the French Revolution) and Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde (a collection of poems and essays).

7. What one particular social issue calls out to you and why?  How do you see yourself contributing to making an impact/being the solution?
I am consistently humbled to be a Language and Literature teacher. We continue to consume information from sources that commodify and exploit division, so we have a challenge on our hands if we want young people to continue to be effectively involved in difficult discussions about complex subjects. I see school as the best place for that challenge to be met. Being a teacher gives me an opportunity to daily enter the fray of complex discourse to urge students to move beyond the places into which we’ve been cornered by our own tendency to narrowly define ourselves and others. Teaching and learning in my subject then becomes a quest to shift perspective, to open and support difficult dialogues, to embrace ambiguity and a lack of closure, and to stay curious and question the value of perceived certainty. I am grateful for all I’ve learned in turn from my students and colleagues about these concepts.

8. Why would you tell a prospective family to choose DSS?
The potential for a continually flourishing learning community like we have at Dwight is hard to find. This is our tenth year, we’ve already accomplished so much, and all signs point to even better things on the horizon.


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