Senior School Head

Welcome to Shady Side Academy Senior School!

The Senior School is a vibrant, energetic community of learners. We are involved in a collective endeavor to fulfill the Academy’s mission to challenge students to think expansively, act ethically and lead responsibly.

Underpinning all that we do at the Senior School is a firm belief that the high school years should engage students in an incredible journey of tremendous personal and intellectual growth. We have high expectations of our students, because we have great faith in their potential to become meaningful contributors to their communities and, ultimately, the broader world. We challenge students to take intellectual risks – in the classroom and beyond – so that they can fulfill that potential.

Strong relationships are at the heart of all that we do at the Senior School. We know that students thrive and grow when they feel safe and supported by a network of faculty and peers. At the Senior School, students build lifelong connections with their classroom teachers, advisors and coaches. A walk through Rowe Hall finds students in individual conferences with teachers discussing an outline for an essay, reviewing for an upcoming test, or exploring a topic from class in more depth. In nice weather, it is typical to see an advisor and advisee walking around the Quad, deep in conversation. Teachers at Shady Side approach their work with a remarkable generosity of spirit that leads them to share their wisdom to help students navigate their academic challenges as well as the twists and turns of the adolescent journey. Students know that their teachers, advisors and coaches are on their side, and because of this, they are encouraged and empowered to try new activities, develop new skills and achieve more than they once thought possible.

With the rapid pace of change in the 21st century, we cannot predict what opportunities and professions will be open to our students in the future. We can be sure, though, that all of our students will face challenges. What I hope for them is that when this happens, they will think back to the challenges that they faced while students at Shady Side – on the stage, on the playing field, in the art studio and in the classroom – and they will remember how to reach within themselves and face whatever task they encounter. I hope, too, that our students will remember the incredible feeling that comes with mastering a skill or a body of information that once seemed so daunting, and that this feeling will enable them to take on new endeavors with confidence, in college and beyond.


Sophie Glenn Lau
Head of Senior School

Sophie Lau

Sophie Lau

Sophie Glenn Lau was appointed head of the Senior School in 2016 after two years as the assistant head and dean of faculty. She previously spent 12 years at The Wheeler School in Providence, R.I., where she chaired the History Department, served as Upper School technology integrationist, advised the Student Senate, and was a member of the Discipline Committee. She also taught, coached and advised at The Pingry School (N.J.), Tabor Academy (Mass.) and Groton School (Mass.). Lau holds an A.B. in history from Princeton University and an M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts.