GA is a PreK-12, coed, nonsectarian day school in Fort Washington, PA

What makes us unique?

Find out here »

Barb Dwinell Announces Retirement

Tenure: 21 years

Positions Held at GA:

  • Middle School Spanish Teacher
  • 6th and 7th Grade Advisor
  • MS Varsity and JV Girls' Lacrosse Coach
  • Middle School Assistant JV Girls' Soccer Coach
  • Faculty Advisor of the Middle School Ambassadors
  • Assistant to the Middle School Chorus/Senior Chorus
  • Advisor to the Chess Club

Honors Conferred:

  • Peter J. Cressman Chair for Excellence in the Teaching of Classical and Modern Language, 2015-2018

Why I Stayed:

  • The energy and creativity of a truly talented, committed faculty
  • The chance to collaborate with so many of my colleagues
  • The opportunity to teach in an ever-changing community of young people
  • The infectious energy of the middle schooler

Lasting Memories:

  • The many, many faculty celebrations in the faculty room
  • The adventures on field trips- places known and unknown, the chance to visit my Alma Mater in Williamsburg almost every year
  • The friendships

I am thankful for:

  • All of the opportunities afforded my own children at GA
  • The chance to teachand coach each new generation of students
  • The laughter every day

Gifts to the Community:

  • A sturdily scaffolded bridge to the cultures of Spanish speaking people...and a welcoming and knowledgeable tour guide once her students arrive
  • A high bar which students learn to climb and clear...and equally demanding standards for herself
  • A rigorous teacher who over the years in response to the evolving student body has continued to grow and hone her craft
  • Many students and alums who will tell you emphatically, "Senora Dwinell is the best teacher I ever had at GA."
  • The uncanny ability of a master teacher who can "break things down and explain things to us that we didn't understand."
  • A caring and concerned advisor who believes that holding students accountable helps shape strong and honorable character
  • At least one visit to each advisee's extracurricular activity...often more
  • A love for lacrosse and soccer, shared during years of skillful Middle School coaching
  • An unlikely decision to make a 108-mile round trip journey every day to teach at GA
  • A generous supply of fresh tomatoes and other homegrown veggies as well as seedlings from her family patch ready to nourish her colleagues and beautify their gardens
  • A dynamite chicken salad to grace any Middle School celebratory meal

What Rich Schellhas Will Remember Most about Barb

Imagine teaching math by using only numbers and symbols, with no other words to surround them. What about biology, but you're only allowed to use biological terms to explain other biological terms? Now you have a sense of what it's like to be in Barb Dwinell's Spanish class, where only Spanish is used to teach Spanish vocabulary and explain Spanish grammar.

Barb is the master of immersive Spanish teaching as she intensely moves students from one engaging, high energy activity to the next, fighting hard not to fall off the tightrope she carefully walks to stick to Spanish without reverting to English. She fights hard because the light bulb illumination matters – getting the students to figure out the word or grammatical concept in the target language is a double victory, for not only have the students learned something new, but in that very learning they have also learned something new. I will miss Barb's commitment to outstanding language teaching. I will miss seeing Barb as part of the 'early arriver' squad here at GA, where she appears as the sun does after traveling an hour from her home. I will miss her laugh, her beautiful summer tomatoes, and her commitment to being the best teacher she can be, every single day.

Next Page of Life:

  • SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT (one car ride at a time)
  • visiting my "kids"
  • travels, near and far
  • gardening-doing the fall cleanup in the fall
  • reading
  • cooking
  • community service
  • "siestas" whenever I like

What I Will Miss Most:

  • except for "Next Page of Life," all of the above

CLICK HERE to share a memory with Barb

CLICK HERE to make a gift to the Annual Fund in honor of Barb

From the email to the community:


People are endlessly fascinating, and what we don't know about each other could fill a book...a library...all our data storage in the cloud.

Each time Rich and I sit down to speak with one of our colleagues who is planning to retire, we learn something new and interesting about them. I have to believe, if given the chance, any two people here at GA would discover, in just a split second with just a bit of a question, a little piece of intriguing treasure buried right below the surface. I encourage us all to go digging.
Most recently, I learned not only that Barb Dwinell is retiring at that end of the school year but that she plans to accompany her husband and daughter as they hike the last 145 kilometers of the El Camino Primitivo, the very first of the pilgrimage routes along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Barb, a wholehearted Hispanophile, is, evidently, trying on a new identity: intrepid hiker. I had no idea.

But I am not surprised. Teachers are natural hikers, and Barb is a natural teacher. At the beginning of every year, she packs her rucksack with all the necessities for traveling safely from September to June. Patience and perseverance, lesson plans and a set of strategies collected over her thirty-three year career, a charming smile, a hearty handshake, caffeine and chocolate, several lists of student names, her own unique can-do attitude, and off she goes. As we all do along the way, she encounters nature in all its glory: flora, fauna, sky blue winds. The occasional mama bear may cross her path, but she is undaunted. She travels on. Curses the inclines. Blesses the flats. Collects fellow pilgrims along the way. Year after year after year after year...until she has completed what must feel like El Camino, The Appalachian Trail, the Rim to Rim, and route 80 coast to coast. Now it is time for Barb to step off this particular well-trodden path, unpack this particular bag, feel the load lighten and amble, unencumbered, for a while.

Barb leaves with the knowledge that at Germantown Academy her name is synonymous with excellence, rigor, and integrity. She will be missed deeply by her students, their parents, and her admiring colleagues. Please join me in wishing Barb all good things as she travels a new and open road.

Maggie McVeigh 1760
Director of Professional Development