Combining life’s passions with unique program leaves impression on students
Some teachers live to teach while others teach to live.
Meet Scott Silk who has taught history at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad since its founding in 2007.
A dedicated teacher inside and outside of the classroom, Silk combines his life’s passions with Pacific Ridge’s unique program to leave a lasting impression on his students. He teaches United States History, Ancient World History, Ethics and his favorite: Middle Eastern History & Diplomacy. With a law degree and years of experience in mediation and dialogue facilitation, he brings a special perspective to the study of historical and modern-day conflicts.
“It’s important for students to explore various viewpoints and how they are shaped by factors such as economics, religious faith, history, and geography,” Silk said. “You need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to really understand the dynamics at play in any conflict.”
Pacific Ridge’s global travel program gives Silk an opportunity to bring his teaching philosophy to life. At the end of each school year, more than 90 percent of the school’s 580 students travel around the country and world for academic study, cultural immersion and service. Faculty members design and lead many of the trips, and Silk has created several trips focused on historical and contemporary conflicts.
In 2010 and 2012, Silk traveled with students to Israel and Palestine to hear different perspectives about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and experience the ongoing efforts of grassroots peacemakers. In 2015, he led a trip to Northern Ireland to learn about the troubles and examine the fragile peace between Catholics and Protestants. In May, Silk took 15 students to Greece, where they interviewed refugees, citizens, and aid workers, then created film documentaries about the Syrian refugee crisis.
Silk noted that first-hand exposure to a global problem triggers students’ empathy and fuels their desire to learn more and make a difference.
“It’s difficult to be apathetic when you connect with real people and hear their stories,” he said. “Experiencing compassion in those situations is especially impactful for teenagers.”
Silk’s belief in young people can also be found in his work with Hands of Peace, an interfaith peace-building organization that brings together Israeli, Palestinian and American teenagers each summer. For three weeks, the teens participate in team-building, leadership training and intensive dialogue about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and American politics and how it affects their lives. Silk launched the San Diego chapter of the Chicago-based program in 2014. The summer session is held on the Pacific Ridge School campus and several students take part each year.
Always looking for new opportunities to share his passion for conflict resolution and understanding, Silk is currently working on a new program, Meaningful Dialogue in Turbulent Times, focused on training school administrators and teachers on the use of dialogue to promote understanding on divisive issues such as politics, race, religion, and socio-economic diversity.
According to Dr. Bob Ogle, Pacific Ridge’s Head of School, the way Silk blends his personal interests with his work at the school makes him an outstanding educator. “Scott’s work embodies the entire mission of Pacific Ridge School. He engages our students academically and ethically, and he does so with important issues all around the world. His work with organizations like Hands of Peace shows students that they can make a difference at any age.” pacificridge.org