It was just a short nine months ago that students nervously gathered under the same white tents pitched in Radcliffe Yard and listened to Dean Kathleen McCartney welcome them to the Ed School. McCartney also shared a video of a flash mob of some 20,000 people dancing to a Black Eyed Peas song as an example of the “powers of teaching and the joy of learning” – a model that all students would come to know and hopefully recall at the end of their Ed School year.
At the 2012 convocation exercises yesterday, graduating students broke out into that same flash mob dance as a sign of thanks to McCartney, and a tribute to the learning they encountered throughout the year. The pre-commencement exercises saw honors such as the Morningstar Family Teaching Award, Alumni Council Award, Class Gift, and Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Awards presented, and featured various speakers who encouraged the graduates to continue learning.
“Learning is a beautiful and messy thing,” said student speaker Jeremy Lalas, Ed.M.’12.
Lalas, a former history teacher, shared how he once asked his students to write a paragraph about cowboys. Apparently, Lalas had drawn up incorrect images of the cowboys only to be corrected by a young Mexican student who pointed out that the first cowboys were actually Mexican. After a Google search, Lalas said, he discovered that he had indeed been wrong. The student urged him to “remember the real cowboys.”
“We can learn just as much from our students as they can from us. We can learn to remember the real cowboys,” Lalas said. “I shared my feelings with you as a reminder that I don’t have any answers. I don’t think anyone really does but a reminder to always keep learning, embrace diversity around you, and to keep students and their voices in focus of the center of your actions.”
Professor Eleanor Duckworth, the student-selected faculty speaker, reflected on some of the challenges in education, particularly with high-stakes testing and inequality of schools. But she encouraged students to stay tuned to what is happening all around them, be active, and use their voices.
As Duckworth shared, her mother always told her, “If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing badly.” “Even I can try to do it,” Duckworth said. “Given you have a Harvard degree behind you, I don’t think it will give you any more confidence or even much more to say, but people will listen to you, so do every bit you can to turn the tides in schools today. You are in every bit of the position to do what you can.”
This year’s Alumni Council Award recipient Nanette Lee Reynolds, Ed.D.’78, playfully reflected on her experiences at the Ed School from attending to “maximize her potential,” as her husband told her, to her mother putting the final copy of her dissertation in the freezer in case the house burned down.
Reynolds, a Civil Rights activist, has spent her career creating a dialogue around issues of race and social justice. While she didn’t want to bog students down with the details of her career, she told the students not to hesitate to look her up; she loves to chat and you never know what they could learn or solve from talking to each other.
“As I join with all of you today on this occasion of great accomplishment and auspicious beginnings, I don’t need to offer you advice and strategies on how to climb steep mountains or swim deep oceans or walk on scorching desserts or more importantly perform incomparable feats in our unbelievably important field of education,” Reynolds said. “You see, I trust that you will. I know you will tackle the ills and woes of our society and know you will seek to dismantle the walls.”
The complete list of honorees:
Student Speaker: Jeremy Lalas, Ed.M. Learning and Teaching
Morningstar Family Teacher Award: Professor Susan Moore Johnson
Alumni Council Award: Nanette Reynolds, Ed.D.’78
Faculty Speaker: Professor Eleanor Duckworth
Phyllis Strimling Award: Sarah Molitor, Ed.M. Mind, Brain, and Education; and Christina Batastini Sheehan, Ed.M. Special Studies
C.A.S. Lauren Canton
Ed.M. Valerie Heron-Duranti, Arts In Education
Aileen Tejeda, Education Policy and Management
Danielle Thomson, Higher Education
Oliver Crocco, Human Development and Psychology
Nedgine Paul, International Education Policy
Junia Kim, Language and Literacy
Heidi Fessenden, Learning and Teaching
Jessica Ellis, Mind, Brain, and Education
Amanda Cox, Prevention Science and Practice
Erasmo Montalvan, School Leadership
Severin Pinilla Isabela, Special Studies
Rachel Cohen, Teacher Education
Aaron Morris, Technology, Innovation, and Education
Class Gift: $14,594.88
Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award:
Natasha Patterson, School Leadership
Allison Browne, Technology, Innovation, and Education
Carol Yu, Education Policy and Management
Yael Karakowsky, Mind, Brain, and Education
Hetal Jani,Special Studies
Alyssa Chan, International Education Policy
Caroline Kerr, Higher Education
Pauline Bera, Language and Literacy
Paul Tritter, Learning and Teaching
David Knight, Prevention Science and Practice
Sanderson Doughty, Human Development and Psychology
Jessica Delforge, Arts in Education
Cesar Guerra, Teacher Education
For videos of the Convocation speeches, visit http://wpdev.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/2012/05/commencement-2012-watch-the-convocation-speeches/.
For full coverage of Commencement 2012, visit http://wpdev.gse.harvard.edu/news-impact/tag/commencement/.