Students nominate five ‘outstanding’ teachers to receive Olmstead prizes

Each year, members of the Williams College graduating class nominate high school teachers who have influenced their intellectual and personal growth for the national Olmsted Prizes for Excellence in Teaching.

A committee of faculty, staff and students selects the winners.

The five recipients of the 2003 George Olmsted, Jr. Class of 1924 Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Teaching are Donna Denizé of St. Alban’s School in Washington, D.C.; Gerald Dolan of Ipswich High School in Ipswich, Mass.; Michael Gosselin of Waterville Senior High School in Waterville, Maine; Tom McKenna of Carleton Place High School in Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada; and Douglas Tyson of Benjamin Banneker Academic Senior High School in Washington, D.C.

The awards consist of $2,000 for each teacher and $1,000 for each of their schools.

The Olmsted Prize, established in 1983, is funded by an endowment from the estates of George Olmsted Jr. ’24 and his wife, Frances.

A lifelong proponent of superior teaching, Olmsted was the president and chairman of the board of the S.D. Warren (Paper) Co.

The chair of this year’s selection committee was David P. Richardson, professor of chemistry.

Donna Denizé

Daniel Healey ’03 nominated English teacher Donna Denizé of St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., because she “is the best, most interesting and most demanding teacher I’ve ever had. Her classes were incredibly challenging, in terms of workload and grading of assignments and papers.”

Healey said that Denizé, an African-American woman teaching at a predominantly white boys’ preparatory school, has “opened many minds that may have remained closed.”

Denizé believes that teaching is “a mysterious process in which a teacher’s methods may change in an attempt to realize education’s noble goals: to investigate truth, to acquire the skills necessary to analyze social conditions and to engage in action that sharpens the moral sense, locally, nationally and globally.”

She received her B.A. in English and secondary education from Stonehill College in 1977 and her M.A. in Renaissance literature from Howard University in 1985.

Gerald Dolan

Reflecting back on his years at Ipswich High School in Massachusetts, Matthew C. Swan ’03 wrote about his music teacher Gerry Dolan: “He taught me, as he teaches all of his students, how to live in the world. By that I mean that he taught me certain important values and modes of conduct, and he taught me to respect others, myself and my work.”

Dolan is the reason that Swan chose to major in music at Williams, and Swan has fond memories of his transition from an anonymous clarinetist to a respected bass clarinetist and bass guitarist under Dolan’s tutelage.

Dolan is director of bands for the Ipswich Public Schools and teaches concert band, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, jazz improvisation classes, music theory and computer music composition classes.

He is also music director of the North Shore Youth Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Senior Orchestra. In 2001, he served as conductor of the United States Youth Wind Ensemble during their summer tour.

Dolan has worked at Ipswich High School since 1986. He received his B.A. from St. Michael’s College in 1978 and his Masters of Music, with a concentration in conducting, from the University of Massachusetts in 1985.

He was recently honored by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association with the 2002 Lowell Mason Award for innovative leadership in music education.

Michael Gosselin

Nicole E. Theriault ’03 nominated Michael Gosselin. “Under his quietly powerful presence, the bespectacled, bearded, gray-haired Mr. Gosselin has a quick wit and enthusiasm for teaching physics that engages and inspires his students,” Theriault said.

“His excellence is characterized by an extraordinary command of his subject,” said Scott Phair, principal of Waterville Senior High School.

Phair added,“His battle with Parkinson’s disease has not lessened his contribution to students and to the community but has made him into a model of courage.”

Both Theriault and Phair credited Gosselin’s efforts to place Waterville Senior High School at the cutting edge of technology. Although Gosselin does not use textbooks in his academic classes, he has created a website that supplements his teaching.

Gosselin has taught at Waterville Senior High School since 1970. He received his B.A. from Bates College in 1970 and his Masters of Education in mathematics from the University of Maine in 1973. In 1998 he received a Masters of Science in computer technology from Thomas College. He was named Paul Harris Fellow by the Waterville Rotary Club in 2002.

Tom McKenna

Williams senior Dylan C. Smith nominated Tom McKenna, whose teaching of philosophy, Smith said, in part reflects the fact that he is from a farming family and was the first to attend college. While education was valued, it was also expected that he and his siblings work on the farm.

McKenna approaches teaching and coaching with an understanding that people learn in different ways, that people have different values and that if you can meet them where they are successful, you will have taught them something, whether it be in class or on the court.

“I believe that I am helping to build a small community of individuals who are responsible for making contributions to our work,” McKenna said.

He added, “They are responsible to themselves, their colleagues and their teammates to make our experience meaningful. My wife claims that I make students feel expert and confident. This is because I have the expectation that they are just that.”

He has taught at Carleton Place High School for 23 years. He received his B.A. in history and classical civilization in 1981 from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

He has taught English, history, physical education, special education and served as a guidance counselor. He coaches both community and high school soccer and basketball.

Douglas Tyson

Aaron R. Jenkins ’03 says that the high standards set by Douglas Tyson, his A.P. chemistry teacher, “allowed me to expect, desire and demand even more of myself.” Tyson helped Jenkins understand the importance of a college degree, of education and of future preparation towards creating and completing life goals.

When the classroom work got tough, Tyson made sure that Jenkins did not give up.

Tyson facilitated the learning process, bringing home the significance of science by discussing matters of most interest to his students: environmental issues, energy production and health. Before Tyson came to the high school, there was no advanced-placement mathematics course offered.

Tyson’s influence extends beyond Banneker High School. As a co-investigator in the implementation of a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Tyson has arranged for 30 scientists, actively involved in research, to mentor students and participate in forums during the academic year on advances in cancer biology prevention, detection and the biology treatment.

Tyson received his B.S. in mathematics and biology from Dartmouth College in 1981 and has done graduate work in biochemistry at Yale University.

He has been teaching mathematics and science at Banneker since 1989. In 2002, the Washingtonian Magazine selected him as a Washingtonian of the Year.

Courtesy of OPA