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Harvard Awards the First Singer Prize

Posted: May 31, 2007

In May, the Harvard Graduate School of Education awarded four teachers with the first-ever Singer Prize for Excellence in Secondary Teaching. The prize — funded by the Paul Singer Family Foundation — recognizes the extraordinary work of teachers in the world. Each winner received a $3,000 stipend and a $2,500 professional development stipend for their school.

“This Singer Prize celebrates teachers who changed the lives of four Harvard seniors. It was an honor for me to serve on the committee that chose these extraordinary teachers. This is an important award,” said Katherine Boles, lecturer and director of Professional Development Schools for the Teacher Education Program. “It was an added delight to meet these fine teachers who demonstrated such dedication to their subject areas, passion for teaching, and commitment to their students. They were awe-inspiring.”

Harvard College seniors nominated secondary education teachers who had changed their lives. The nominations were reviewed by a committee consisting of five HGSE graduate students, five Harvard College juniors, and Boles.

The following teachers received the award during an Ed School lecture on May 3:

    • Eric Kincaid, biology teacher at Morgantown High School, Morgantown, W.Va., was nominated by Amy Xu,’07. While attending Morgantown High, Xu found biology “tedious” and “boring,” but, in her junior year, Kincaid changed her perspective during an AP Biology course. “Beyond fostering my enthusiasm for biomedical science, Mr. Kincaid has also given me the courage to pursue my greatest ambitions,” she says. “I am excited to pursue a lifelong career as a biomedical research scientist.”
    • Ila Lewis, Spanish teacher at Seneca High School in Tabernacle, N.J., nominated by Norman Pai Ho,’07. When Pai Ho surpassed AP Spanish, Lewis custom-designed an interdisciplinary course on Spanish literature. “She has fostered a love for languages and also a deep, ingrained international sensibility,” says Ho. “I have continued my study of Spanish and also am learning Chinese.”
    • David Pearson, history teacher from Kents Hill School in Readfield, Maine, nominated by Rachel Ann Culley. Pearson’s warning that his course would be the most difficult students ever take didn’t deter Culley’s strive for excellence. “After class one day, Mr. Pearson called me over. I was exhausted, almost in tears, and was sure he was going to reprimand me for my lack of participation,” Culley says. “He said, ‘I worry about you.’ I looked up. ‘You are working too hard. Try to relax for a day.’”
    • Peter Polley, English and film studies teacher from York Mills Collegiate Institute in North York, Ontario, nominated by Pamela Chan. Chan credits Polley’s class as enriching her. “Mr. Polley is my inspiration,” she says. “A teacher for over 30 years, he maintains an undying zest for teaching and an extraordinary commitment to his students’ well-being both in and out of the class.”


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