Faculty Highlight – Sam Wainwright

As the daughter of two educators, Sam wanted to avoid being a teacher when she first left college, but as soon as she started doing a little extra work at Dublin High School where her father was a teacher and basketball coach, she started to fall in love with the idea of being a teacher. As a theater kid and sometimes book nerd, English seemed like the perfect subject choice, though Sam wasn’t an English major in college, but an American Studies major at UC Santa Cruz. Her approach to learning and teaching has always celebrated the interconnectedness of literature, history, and current issues of social justice.
Samantha started her teaching career in 2008 at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, just about a month after the Great Recession first hit. She first came to Moreau in September of 2011. The school year was already one month in, and the lingering effects of the recession on public education had left her jobless as the school year started, and there just weren’t a lot of openings for English teachers. A teacher left Moreau unexpectedly, and suddenly there was this opening. “I thought, my dad is an alum (Mark Wainwright, ’71), my godfather was a former history teacher (Ron Rubio), I feel like I know this place, I should apply there,” Samantha says. It felt like coming home to a family she never knew she had and has been here ever since. In that first year, she worked in what is now the Learning Center. The testing room was actually an English department storage space. In the last eight years, she taught everything from honors English to summer school, and participated in so many significant programs on campus: student government, Link Crew, Relay for Life club, Earthwise club, worked with CMT as a Kairos retreat leader, and even a little work here and there with the Athletic Department. At one point, she was even the summer school principal. Sam traveled to Austin, Japan, and Washington, D.C. She felt she was so lucky to come into an English department that already ran very smoothly and effectively, thanks in large part to the long time strong leadership of Mrs. Cheryl Steeb and a great team of teachers. So many students are known to come back to Moreau and praise the English department for how well they were prepared for writing in college. “I definitely felt like there were high expectations to be an excellent English teacher here, and now as department chair for the past two years, huge shoes to fill in keeping the department running at a high level for the students,” she says.
Last year, she felt as if she was really just learning the ropes of being a department chair, but this year, the department has made a few policy changes. They’ve improved the honors English promotion procedures to ensure equity and transparency for all parties involved, from students, to teachers, to counselors. And, they are planning to update the furniture in several English classrooms over the next few years. This year, the department saw an increase in scores on the Junior Writing Sample, a benchmark timed writing assessment that all juniors take every January, measuring how well students have developed their essay writing skills in their first two and a half years. English teachers often view this as an assessment of themselves as well, so they’re proud when those low scores go down and the high scores go up. Most of all, the biggest “achievement” she strives for is maintaining the consistency of excellence that has been a clear hallmark of the English department for years before she ever showed up. But, it’s not that hard when Moreau has such a great team behind her delivering meaningful and effective instruction to our students.
Samantha spent the last five years working toward her Masters in English literature at San Francisco State and is planning to graduate this spring, finishing her thesis on the trauma of racial oppression and the healing power of storytelling. “Through this experience, I’ve developed an even deeper love of literature and writing which easily translates to my work in the classroom with our students.”