High-school teachers win Olmsted

May 6, 2015 by Matthew Borin, News Editor

Four teachers will receive Olmsted Prizes for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching on June 6 as part of Commencement.

Seniors at the College nominated high school teachers who were influential in their lives and learning. A committee of faculty, staff and students chose winners from the nominees. The prize awards $3,000 to the teachers and $5,000 to their schools. The Olmsted program, funded by an endowment from the estate of George Olmsted, Jr. ’24, also provides $5,000 grants for faculty development at seven local schools.

The recipients are Christopher J. Avilés of Dorchester Academy in Massachusetts, Keith D. Miller of Cold Spring Harbor Junior-Senior High School in New York, Mark A. Liepe of East Noble High School in Indiana and Stephanie G. Rossi of Wheat Ridge High School in Colorado.

English major Jonathan Dely ’15 nominated Miller.

“By demonstrating and teaching the power of language, Mr. Miller enhanced the ways in which I was able to conceptualize the world. After his class, ordinary things assumed different, more precise names, new words became available to describe existing concepts, and things I couldn’t find the words for before suddenly became explainable. From this newfound availability of rhetoric followed a deeper understanding of my surroundings and of myself,” Dely said.

Gabe Stephens ’15, who will attend a neuroscience Ph.D. program, nominated Liepe, his biology teacher who helped him develop an interest in science.

“Mr. Liepe was a catalyst for essentially the rest of my life. I had little specific interest in science up to that point, with a broad interest in just about everything,” Stephens said. “He focused me when he saw that I responded to the oddities of biology with not just idle amazement but pointed inquiry. With his guidance, I sharpened my scientific rigor to the point I could compete well on an international level. I highly doubt I would have gotten into Williams otherwise.”

Hannah Van Wetter ’15, a history major, chose to nominate Rossi, her Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher. Rossi inspired her by campaigning for a balanced curriculum.

“In the fall of 2014, Mrs. Rossi dedicated herself to combating a curriculum oversight committee for AP US History (one of the wonderful classes I had with her as a student) – fighting to ensure that the curriculum would reflect both the positive and negative aspects of American history. She appeared on local news stations and appealed to the College Board and the Colorado School Board in an attempt to maintain the integrity of education – something that defines her investment and passion for teaching,” Van Wetter said.

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