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What’s Behind Dwight’s “Spark of Genius” Philosophy?

I can think of no better topic to explore in my first blog post than “spark of genius.” Comprised of just three words, this phrase can conjure up an inestimable number of possibilities. A person’s “spark of genius” is an interest, activity, talent, or passion ― whatever captures the mind, spirit, body, or imagination. The one aspect that’s true for everyone about a “spark of genius” is that it is personal.

Dwight’s motto, “igniting the spark of genius in every child,” drives our personalized approach to learning, permeates the culture of our school, and differentiates our educational philosophy from others. Personalized learning is the first of Dwight’s three pillars, and stands alongside community and global vision.

The premise is straightforward: When a child demonstrates a particular interest in, or talent for, something ― whether in the arts, technology, science, sports, etc. ― that endeavor should be fostered. Children benefit in innumerable ways when they are encouraged to carve their own path, to not give up ― and to get up and try again should they stumble along the way. In so doing, children gain greater self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment that carries over into other areas both inside and outside the classroom.

A nurturing teacher who taps into what excites a student opens the door to greater learning. Working one-on-one with students, Dwight faculty members empower students to pursue their own passions, believe in their own talents, and seek their own unique path of learning. This personalized attention translates into greater mastery and success.

Like some other Dwight traditions, this educational approach emerged from a Spahn family philosophy, which has been passed down for three generations: from my father and former Headmaster, Dr. M.C. Spahn, to me; from me to my sons, Blake ’89, Vice Chancellor, and Kirk ’95, Chairman of The Dwight Schools; and from Blake to his two children, who are both students in our Lower School.

A school is like a family, and at Dwight, we live this philosophy.

As students grow, graduate, and move on to higher education and careers, their passions may change, evolve, or translate into life-long meaningful purpose. Regardless, when a “spark” is ignited, the potential is limitless. As educators, we inspire children to believe that anything is possible.


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