Four Secondary School Teachers Recognized as Extraordinary by Williams College Seniors
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 21, 2007 - Williams College will award its national George Olmsted, Jr., Class of 1924, Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching to Diana M. Canterbury, teacher of theater arts at Worcester (Mass.) Academy; Roger Maynard, Jr., teacher of history and psychology at Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vt.; Kathryn Chang, now a teacher of chemistry at Saratoga (Calif.) High School; and Tracy Suggs, teacher of chemistry at Vestal (N.Y.) Senior High School.
Each year, Williams seniors nominate for the Olmsteds high school teachers who were influential in their lives and a committee of faculty, staff, and students select winners from among the nominees.
In 2005, the Olmsted Prizes received national attention when Thomas L. Friedman, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, highlighted the program and the prize recipients in his column, "Behind Every Grad ...".
"The best way to ensure that we have teachers who inspire their students is if we recognize and reward those who clearly have done so," he wrote.
The awards consist of $3,000 for each teacher and $2,500 for his or her school. Winners are honored during Commencement at Williams. The Olmsted Prize, established in 1983, is funded by an endowment from the estates of George Olmsted, Jr., '24, and his wife, Frances, who wished to recognize excellence in secondary school teaching. Olmsted, a lifelong proponent of superior teaching, was the president and chairman of the board of the S. D. Warren Paper Co.
Diana M. Canterbury, Worcester (Mass.) Academy
"The more courses I've taken," Williams senior Amanda Strogoff says, "the more I've come to appreciate Diana Canterbury's acting classes. Acting class ensembles promoted experimentation and cooperation and Mrs. Canterbury's openness and honest opinions brought the same out of her students ... She placed enormous trust in our maturity, though we were high school students ... In one-on-one time she would encourage a stretching of one's perceived limits, and -- true to her belief in the maturity of high school students -- she respected the limits which we set for ourselves."
At Worcester Academy since 1986, Canterbury has taught English, sociology, and theater arts, and serves as the chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. In her theater classes and beyond, Canterbury believes that her job is "to unlock potential -- to discover along with my students the great secrets of their hidden promise."
Canterbury is regarded highly by her peers. "Diana has created a space in the Andes Pit Theater that encourages creativity, artistic expression, self-discovery, and academic discourse," Antonio Viva, assistant head of school at Worcester Academy says. With Canterbury, Viva is team-teaching a class called "Thinking Like Leonardo," a course designed to examine "how we as individuals can reshape the world, one creative thinker at a time."
As department chair, Canterbury focuses on linking the arts to the academy's diversity initiatives. She initiated the John Hope Fellowship and the Guest Artist Program. The fellowship is "designed to provide an opportunity to offer a new teacher of color the chance to develop teaching experience" and the program brings a "distinguished artist from an under-represented group to the Academy, joining the Arts faculty for a time, teaching and providing hands-on professional development."
Roger Maynard, Jr., Hartford High School, White River Junction, Vt.
Roger Maynard, Jr. "is able to connect with all types of students, regardless of their academic prowess, aspirations, or backgrounds. A play one night, a basketball game the next ... Mr. Maynard is there." Williams senior Hannah Foote describes him as a person who "makes students feel valuable for their existence and not for their deeds."
For 32 years, Maynard has taught at Hartford High, "all, while squeezing in lessons about life, love, and, to be quite honest, the pursuit of happiness. While clearly a person who values education and academic accomplishment," Foote says, "Maynard often emphasizes that he'd rather see his students earn Cs and be good people than score a 4.0 but not contribute as citizens and human beings."
After graduating from Williams in 1968, Maynard joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Nepal. He then taught in a public school in the South Bronx before moving to Vermont to teach social studies at Hartford High, a regional school for several towns.
Maynard's greatest joy comes from the classroom. "I simply love to teach," he says. "With 26 students with a wide variety of learning styles, vastly different motivation levels, often acute emotional needs, teaching is quite a challenge ... I like to think that I am like Mark Hopkins on one end of the log, and that I am able to engage that other student on the other end."
Maynard recognizes the need for building relationships that can encourage students to achieve. "Some of my students are great athletes, but not motivated students," he says. "By attending their athletic events, I show them that I value the work they are putting into this part of their lives, and that likewise they should be putting the same effort into their class work."
Kathryn Chang, Monte Vista High School, Danville, Calif.
Williams senior Kate Larabee says she almost did not get into Kathryn Chang's AP Chemistry course in 2001. It was over enrolled. "But," Larabee says, "I pleaded with her to let me into the course, and the whining was worth it."
"Mrs. Chang was enthusiastic for class, but more importantly, her enthusiasm parlayed into excitement in her students," says Larabee.
Chang says she first knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was a sophomore in high school chemistry. "When I tell people now what I do for a living," Chang says, "they often respond, "Wow. I hated chemistry!" In response, Chang makes it her mission to "both teach the required material and have students leave my class loving chemistry."
Struggling with chemistry in college, Chang taught herself "mnemonic devices and analogies" to help learn and retain the material. Her own struggle and subsequent success with chemistry allow her to better relate to her students, Chang says. "The fact that chemistry was a challenge for me in college has undoubtedly made me a better teacher, as I can anticipate student mistakes or pitfalls and search for alternative ways to illustrate a complicated subject."
"She brings with her a love of teaching, a love of learning, and a love of being with the students," science department chair Genevieve Garcia says. "Kathy approaches chemistry with a sense of humor, an open mind, and incredible enthusiasm."
Beyond her own classroom teaching, Chang is involved in the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program, and mentoring new teachers. Chang is now a teacher at Saratoga (Calif.) High School.
Tracy L. Suggs, Vestal (N.Y.) Senior High School
For Williams senior Maggie Lowenstein, IB Chemistry was a class she "was going to just make it through and nothing more." Then she met Tracy Suggs, greeting the class on the first day "in a tie-dyed lab coat performing magic tricks to musical accompaniment -- our class knew chemistry was not going to be what we expected."
Lowenstein describes Suggs as "the most challenging teacher I ever had before coming to Williams. She would accept nothing but the best, and for the first time in my academic career, I was pushed to excel ... Many teachers may know how to push their students, but Mrs. Suggs was able to demand so much and have students happily oblige, because she was right there with us every step of the way."
In addition to teaching chemistry, Suggs is also the chemistry department chair, the Science Club advisor, and the Science Olympiad coach. The Vestal Senior High Science Olympiad team won first place in the Polymer Event at the New York State Science Olympiad Competition at West Point in 2004 and are in the top five percent annually at the regional competition. Lowenstein describes the Science Olympiad as her "most valued high school activity."
Fellow teachers at Vestal describe Suggs as "an outstanding educator. She cultivates a classroom that is challenging and hands-on ... Mrs. Suggs is an exceptional and dynamic instructor."
Suggs herself says she feels most grateful for the lessons learned from her students. "The joy of learning never ceases," she says, "and my classroom, hopefully, nourishes students with the satisfaction that comes from a task well-done or a challenge accomplished."
Related link: Other Olmsted Award recipients