Dean, history teacher, and mentor: Wallach waves goodbye


Ariella Frommer, Staff Writer

“I don’t think you go into this job looking for rewards or for people to say ‘thank you,’ but it’s always nice when you see that you did have some kind of an impact and you were able to make a difference,” Dean of Class of 2022 and history teacher Dr. Glenn Wallach said. 

Wallach will retire from the school this year after 22 years as a teacher and dean to travel, rest, and pursue history research, he said.

After teaching history full-time for three years, Wallach became a grade dean in 2003. “As a dean, getting to know each class and getting to really feel like you have made a connection with them and been there to provide advice was really great,” he said. 

Dean of Class of 2024 and science teacher Stephanie Feigin worked with and got advice from Wallach often as a dean, she said. “He has such a thoughtful way of thinking about how to engage with students and how to help them navigate their four years,” she said. “I have taken so much of his framework for being a dean, and I will definitely miss that.”

In 2000, Feigin and Wallach were in the same cohort of new faculty and watching him was one of the factors that made Feigin consider being a dean, she said “I was envious of the way in which he was able to interact with students beyond the classroom.”

Because of his schedule, Wallach had no way of predicting what would happen during his school day, he said. “In a sense, I have a schedule, but so much of it depends on what crosses the transom that day and that keeps it interesting and fun.”

As a dean, Wallach experienced different aspects of the school, other than academics, by attending student activities such as sports events and theater performances, he said. “I get to see students sometimes in a place where they are their happiest and most fulfilled.”

Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly often sees Wallach at school activities and events, he wrote in an email. “From his teaching, to his advising, to his role as a class dean, to his constant presence at more after-school events and activities than I can count, a huge part of this school’s success is owned by Dr. Wallach,” he said. 

Wallach always brought enthusiasm to his classes and the community, Ben Heller ‘18 said. Heller, who was the senior class president, worked closely with Wallach while in the role. “When working with him, he always wanted to bring the most energy and excitement to us.”

Similarly, Justin Gurvitch (12), who had Wallach as his teacher in Atlantic World History, appreciates the excitement Wallach brought to his history class, he said. “Throughout the year, he had been telling us that we would have class outside, and we never had it, but on the last day of school, out of nowhere, he pulled out a case and slapped on these reflective aviators and the entire class was stunned.”  

As a history teacher, Wallach has taught Atlantic World History to ninth graders, US History to tenth graders, Contemporary US History, and his elective History Through the Lens. Wallach enjoys teaching because he likes seeing students engaged in what they are studying, he said. “There are these great moments where everything comes together and students have been sparked by something we talked about,” he said.

Gurvitch is thankful for how he grew as a writer in the class, he said. “Going into that year, I was convinced I knew how to write, but turns out I had no idea,” he said. “And Dr. Wallach was the teacher who made me realize that and [taught me] how to fix it.” 

Throughout that year, Wallach edited Gurvitch’s papers inside and outside of class, he said. “I would be a horrible history writer if not for Dr. Wallach,” he said. 

History Department Chair Dr. Daniel Link appreciates how Wallach pulls together sources and materials for his students and colleagues alike, he said. “He wants to make sure that his students are exposed to a broad array of sources to help them approach history in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner.” For example, when the Black Lives Matter protest broke out in 2020, Wallach found various sources on how the media has covered protests by African Americans in the past, which he gave to other history teachers to help them prepare for class, Link said. Additionally, because Wallach has taught at the college level, he prepares students for college well, he said. 

Gurvitch appreciates the relationship he has built with Wallach, he said. “I can waltz into his office at any point, and he is happy to receive me.”

Heller appreciated how Wallach made an effort to establish a relationship with every student in his grade, he said. “When there are 180 people in a grade, that’s tough, but he made sure to have a legit relationship with everybody in the grade after four years,” he said, “I’m sure everybody can say they had a one-on-one meeting with Dr. Wallach at one point or another.”

Wallach was a support system for each one of his students, Rachel Okin ‘18 said. One instance of his care for his students was when Okin got a concussion, she said. “I was so appreciative that Dr. Wallach was my dean because he reached out to me, he reached out to my parents, and he was so helpful and supportive of me.”

Likewise for Kelly, Wallach is known for his care for students, he wrote. One of Kelly’s favorite memories of Wallach is when he called Kelly at 2:00 AM expressing a concern about a student in his class, he wrote. “While I was happy to follow through with his concern, I was permanently impressed by Dr. Wallach’s follow up call at 3:00 AM and again at 6:00 AM to see if anything else needed to be done.”

Heller’s favorite memory of Wallach was working with him on class music videos, he said. Wallach was always excited to participate in the videos and perform bits, he said. 

One of Okin’s favorite memories of Wallach was their theme for senior absurdity day, “Dr. Wallach’s Bar mitzvah,” she said. “He let us lift him and do the Horah around him, because he just wanted everyone else around him to be happy and have a good time.” 

Wallach’s unique relationship with Okin’s grade made their grade’s time at the school special, she said. “We were really lucky that we had a dean like Dr. Wallach, who was like ‘You guys want to do this? I’ll join in on your fun,’ and we had a blast.”

People are going to remember Wallach as an exemplary grade dean because he was passionate about his job and devoted all his time to it, Heller said. 

Wallach was almost like a student in their grade, Okin said. “We had merch, and he wore it all around school, and he just really fit in well with the energy and laughter of our class that we had going on all the time.”

One rewarding part about Wallach’s job is running into alumni on the street, he said.

“Just a couple weeks ago, I was getting on the bus and a kid from the Class of 2006 said, ‘Dr. Wallach?’” he said. His former student introduced himself to Wallach and told him about what he was doing and what experiences at the school were important to him. 

For 12 years, between 2002 and 2014, Wallach served as the faculty advisor of the Record. Even though there were a lot of late press nights, Wallach had fun helping students on the newspaper, he said. “I really enjoyed working with students, hearing their ideas, and helping them make the paper what they wanted it to be,” he said. 

For Wallach’s last Record issue as the faculty advisor, each previous Volume’s editorial board wrote lengthy notes thanking Wallach for his time as their faculty advisor. “We could not be more grateful for your guidance this year. We all grew as writers and editors under your oversight,” the editorial board of Volume 111 wrote for the spread, which was published in their Class Day issue.

Before Wallach became an educator, he researched for a series of books about the Vietnam War, then worked on Capitol Hill, he said. He went to graduate school and received his degree in American studies. After teaching history at various colleges, he served as a dean at one of the residential colleges at Yale University, he said.

Wallach came to the school because he wanted to find a job in New York City to be closer to his wife, who was living in the city while he was working in Washington D.C., he said. He was having lunch with a colleague from Yale, who asked if a former student could join them, who turned out to be English teacher Rebecca Bahr, and she spoke highly of teaching at the school, he said. “She spent all this time talking about how she loved teaching at Horace Mann, and I thought, ‘Wow, I could do something like that.’” Shortly after, Wallach applied to several independent schools in the area and got hired at the school, he said.

Wallach decided to retire because he has been a dean for 19 years and he was ready to explore other possibilities, he said. After so many years in his role, he is glad the new dean, math teacher Dr. Shalini Sudarsanan, will have a fresh perspective.

After he retires, Wallach wants to work on historical research and travel, he said. Wallach is still developing ideas for what that research will be, he said.  “I’m looking forward to new challenges and doing different types of things.” 

Wallach’s legacy at the school will be one of engagement with academic life and devotion to the community, Link said. “He helped create a community at Horace Mann School so that all students feel welcomed and supported, and that’s a really powerful legacy to leave behind,” he said.