Twelve senior members of Princeton Day School's faculty and staff retired in June. This profile of Lower School music teacher Andrea Schafer is the seventh in our series on these long-serving and much beloved faculty and staff members. (The most recent profile is of Upper School science teacher and scientist in residence Dr. Leon Rosenberg, which you can read here.)
Head of School Paul Stellato wrote in the most recent issue of the Journal, "Consider the impact of a group whose years of service on our campus reach into the hundreds, whose guidance, care, and direction have enriched the lives of thousands of students, parents, colleagues, and friends, and whose influence on the course and culture of our school can be measured in her unbridled prosperity, her national reputation, and her unwavering optimism." Here is the profile of Andrea Schafer as told by Cindy Peifer, Middle School humanities teacher and Da Vinci Coordinator.
"When Andrea Schafer retires at the end of the year, it will take a magician to fill her shoes. Whether dancing, directing, or teaching new movements, those shoes are never still. This master of music understands children, and she has in common with them energy in abundance. Over her 20 years at PDS, she has captured her students' creative energy in performance after performance, pushing her charges to accomplish things they never knew they could do, and bringing one audience after another to its feet.
The Lower School Holiday Concert is a work of art to which every LS teacher contributes, and which has been largely staged and directed by Andrea. Whether it was the angelic Kindergarteners or the more "sophisticated" 4th graders, she managed to get them into the right places at the right time to offer their holiday songs from around the world to packed houses.
Along with the 4th grade teachers, Andrea has produced approximately twenty 4th grade operettas. She has choreographed them all with amazing results. One chord on the piano brings each student to attention. Whether the students are portraying the Peanuts gang, the Muppets, or fairytale characters we all know and love, she has the students singing and dancing expertly around the stage. Fourth grade parents have been known to laugh and cry at the same time when they see what their children have accomplished.
Along with Tomasz Rzeczycki and the help of parents, Andrea has facilitated The Players Circle for Lower School students. Here, students who study music outside of school can play their instruments for an audience that fills the LS Music room. Young pianists, violinists, and others gain confidence and poise as they entertain other students, parents, and faculty.
Although most people know Andrea from what they see happening on the stage, she is a busy teacher behind the scenes. She knows and cares about each student in the Lower School and follows up on any concerns. As an individual who teaches everyone in the division, she has probably written about 500 comments per year. And while most teachers struggle to get their comments in on time, Andrea, an extraordinarily organized person, is always finished early.
Many of us remember Andrea and her husband Peter performing Polish folk dances for us in past years. These days she is also likely to be found country line dancing or salsa dancing with friends. From time to time she has brought in another family member, her parrot, Milo, who sings and talks to the students, to everyone's delight.
At the end of the school year, Andrea helps the children shine at the final closing assembly. It is a time to celebrate the year in words and in music, as well as a time to celebrate those who have served the school but are leaving for new opportunities. This year, we will wish Andrea herself the best as she and other beloved Lower School teachers depart.
For some time now, she has said that she would "graduate" with her daughter Mary, and she is true to her word.
Andrea will not be letting any grass grow under her feet during retirement. She will continue giving harp lessons privately, have more time to enjoy horseback riding, continue her yoga routine, and explore books on mindfulness. She will have a new golden retriever to keep her company, and it is a given that she will pick up lots of new hobbies."