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>  News Releases >   2007 >   May

Dartmouth announces first winners of Teaching Award

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 05/02/07
Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

K-12 teachers to receive honor, prize at Dartmouth commencement, June 10

For four graduating Dartmouth seniors, commencement exercises in June will have an extra significance; it will be a day to see their former teachers honored for being the kind of inspiring educators who made graduation from Dartmouth possible. The June 10 commencement ceremony will mark the inaugural Dartmouth Prize for Exceptional Teaching, awarded this year to Chris Richards of Belmont Hill School, Belmont, M.A., Evelyn Gates of the Paul Horn Academy in Houston, Jim Cocoros of Stuyvesant High School in New York City (formerly of Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.), and Swati Sharma of Manchester Memorial High School in Manchester, N.H. The four teachers were all nominated by former students who are now among Dartmouth's graduating seniors.

In November 2006, seniors were invited to nominate an influential teacher from kindergarten through twelfth grade. A nine-person committee made up of students, faculty and administrators reviewed the name-blind nominations and selected the four honorees. The four recipients will be honored during commencement, at a luncheon and a reception. Each teacher will also receive $3,000 as well as a $2,500 award for his or her school.

President James Wright, who approved the program, and whose office is funding the program jointly with the Office of the Provost said, "By honoring teachers, Dartmouth has an opportunity to reward not only the extraordinary efforts of individual teachers who have made a difference to their students, but also to call attention to the profession in general."

Swati Sharma
Swati Sharma
Chris Richards
Chris Richards
James Cocoros
James Cocoros
Evelyn Gates
Evelyn Gates

Dean of Student Life Holly Sateia, who helped spearhead the initiative, officially titled the Dartmouth Prize for Exceptional Teaching: A Celebration of Outstanding Elementary and Secondary Education, added, "Speaking as someone who began her career as a high school teacher, I'm so pleased that this award demonstrates how much we value teaching , learning and helping students reach their potential. As Dean of Student Life, I get to work with such incredible students and this award allows us to recognize some of the people who helped to get them here." Faculty wishing to get involved with the project in the future should contact Sateia.

Jay Davis, instructor in Dartmouth's Department of Education and supervisor of the Secondary Teacher Education Program, chaired the Prize and Selection committees. "We intentionally left it very much open to individual committee members to decide what criteria they would use," said Davis. "We did ask that they consider which teachers they would have most wanted to have themselves, or have for their children, and we also ensured that we had diversity in ages taught, subjects taught, geography, and type of school."

Richards was nominated by Jonathan Kroft '07, to whom he taught Latin and coached in rowing. Said Kroft of his former teacher and mentor, "I was, by all estimates, a sub-par student, but Mr. Richards took an active role in my education, not allowing me to slip through the cracks, and my grades reflected his effort as I made the Honor Roll by the end of my first year, and after that, each year made the High Honor Roll."

Sharma was nominated by her former student Dieu-Thi Nguyen '07 to whom she taught high school math. Nguyen, a first-generation Vietnamese-American and the first in her family to attend college, was recently accepted to Dartmouth Medical School. Of her former teacher she said, "She fosters a dynamic classroom environment — one in which each student feels comfortable taking risks, asking questions, and seeking help. She devotes much of her time to establish a network of support for each student and takes the rigid structure of the classroom and transforms it into a lively and close-knit community where mutual respect unifies the members in that community."

Cocoros, formerly an attorney, was nominated by Alana Bond '07 to whom he taught math at Sheepshead Bay High School. Bond, describing "Mr. C" in her nomination essay, wrote that Cocoros, "taught me many things. He taught me about statistics, outdated geometric theorems, sums of infinite series, dangling participles, the hypocrisy of Supreme Court decisions; but more importantly, he taught me about compassion and the unequaled value of education." Bond, who is earning her teaching certification thanks to Dartmouth's Teacher Education Program, added, "At Sheepshead Bay High School, in the thick of Brooklyn, NY, college was not high on everyone's priority list. Mr. C broke the mold, set fire to 'normal' expectations and standards, and changed many lives in the process."

Gates was nominated by Rachel Hamilton '07, to whom she taught kindergarten. Gates joined the teaching profession after the 1980s Texas oil bust ended her career in corporate accounting. It was, said Hamilton, "Texaco's loss, our gain. Ms. Gates was born to teach. Her love of kids, as well as math and spelling, made us excited about learning from the first day forward and throughout our lives."

The idea for the program grew out of a June 2005 New York Times column by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and commentator Thomas L. Friedman in which he praised Williams College's Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching. Since 1984, Williams has honored four secondary school teachers with a cash prize and recognition at commencement. A number of people, including Dartmouth faculty, students and alumni, approached the administration about developing a similar program and were met with enthusiasm. Hany Farid, a professor of computer science who was among those promoting the idea said, "Dartmouth prides itself on being a teaching college; this is a way for a well-known institution of higher learning to highlight the importance of teaching."

Hannah Burzynski '07, who sat on the planning committee to develop the award and plans to go into elementary education after graduation, said, "I've found that people think K-12 educators have an 'easy' job that somehow involves less intellectual rigor and deserves less respect than careers in medicine, finance, or law. In reality, our primary and secondary educators share with our parents and guardians the responsibility for shaping us into the people we are — people who can participate positively and intelligently in a changing world. I am so grateful that an award has been established that recognizes the tremendous debt that we as individuals and as a society owe to the passionate, selfless professionals who take on the challenge of educating our young people."

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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