This past Wednesday, the Harvard Graduate School of Education awarded four teachers with the second annual 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.
"Anyone who reads the nominations sees that all have had an impact on their students far beyond the subject they taught," said Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Daphne Layton during the awards ceremony. "These are the gifts at the end of the day that helped each of these talented students come to a place like Harvard and succeed here."
Harvard College seniors nominated secondary education teachers who had changed their lives. The nominations were then reviewed by a committee consisting of five HGSE doctoral students, five Harvard College juniors, and Lecturer Katherine Boles.
The following teachers received the award during an Ed School lecture on April 16:
- Martha Pero, Spanish teacher at Hudson High School in Hudson, Ohio, nominated by Benjamin Lee '08. Pero's accomplishments include her abilitiy to support students inside and outside the classroom. When Lee excelled in Spanish, Pero proposed teaching him an independent study during her break period, especially focused on medical Spanish. The experience taught Lee the importance of creating learning opportunities where they don't exist and rising above the walls between academic disciplines.
- Roberto Ramirez, a physics and math teacher at Windsor High School in Windsor, Calif., nominated by Brian Gillis '08. Ramirez's dedication to his students propels him to stay after school "as long as it takes" -- often three hours or more -- just to explain a single concept that escapes a student's grasp. Gillis benefitted enormously from Ramirez's dedication, especially since he stayed after school every other day for a full semester to teach trigonometry enabling Gillis to enroll in advanced calculus. The lesson turned into more than just math for Gillis, who says he learned how to build his potential.
- Karen Jackson, a mathematics teacher at Pearland Glenda Dawson High School in Pearland, Texas, nominated by Stephen Wolff '08. After Wolff moved to Texas, Jackson urged him to participate in math club, even though he scored some 100 points lower than other students. Instead of giving up, she encouraged him to stick with it and not only compete with the math team, but even teach other students. "I did not even realize I was teaching at the time," says Wolff. "Mrs. Jackson had taken an insecure, academically stalled student, and transformed me into an insatiable scholar and an impassioned teacher."
- Susan Behel, a biology teacher at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonted Springs, Fla., nominated by Kyle J. Foreman '08. As an advanced placement biology teacher, Behel could admit only high-achieving students to high scoring classes. However, she encouraged all students to expand their limits and showed them that hard work can yield success. Behel's personal dedication enabled Foreman to persevere in his studies despite a protracted illness, pursue internships, and apply for graduate study in public and global health. He insists that above all, she profoundly impacted his outlook and inspired him to see the potential in everyone.