Editor’s note: this address was given by Dean of Faculty Peter Valine during Assembly on September 25, 2019.
The Karin O’Neil Instructorship was established in 2001 by alumni and friends and named for former Associate Head of School Karin O’Neil who, until her departure that year, directed much of the School’s program for over 30 years and enabled the School to achieve great progress and to aspire to the highest levels of scholarship and student engagement.
The O’Neil Instructorship recipient joined the Williston community in 2015 as an experienced independent school teacher and coach. Through an exemplary commitment of time, energy, and expertise he is transforming the experiences of Williston students both in the classroom and on the athletic field.
In the History classroom he constantly strives to find that delicate balance of challenging and stretching his students while providing them the structure and support which enables them to grow and succeed. His students comment on the “positive vibe” they experience in his classes that stems from his passion for history and his ability to fully engage them in the learning process. He builds and nurtures a healthy rapport with his students and an atmosphere of trust pervades the classroom. This environment of mutual respect is at the root of the learning process and it encourages his students to be avid risk takers. One of his students recently commented that “His effective teaching constantly leads to my strong desire to learn more about the subject.”
His strong work ethic and preparation provide him a clear vision of individual and collective goals for his students. He is process oriented and he understands how each incremental step contributes to the final product. His lesson plans require his students to work as part of a team, and to hone their critical thinking skills. Skill development is at the very core of his work and a student recently wrote that “In every unit we are introduced to something that we haven’t done before and that makes us learn to adapt to the new situation we have been placed in.”
Over the past several years he has devoted time in the summers to revamp several parts of the Williston history curriculum. He created the new Williston History course that is part of the 9th grade Humanities program, and he is now collaborating with a few colleagues in launching the 10th grade World History course. He is also recognized as a leader in the History Department in integrating media literacy into the curriculum.
As a head varsity coach of two sports, he is making a substantial contribution to the Williston athletic program. The organization, engagement, and scaffolding that leads to student growth in the classroom is also mirrored in his coaching. His attention to detail grounds his teams in the fundamentals of the sport and he builds upon this strong foundation. While he models a competitive spirit, his teams are steeped in the principles of sportsmanship and integrity. As a coach he holds himself to the highest standards and expects a similar approach from his athletes.
I am pleased to announce that the new recipient of the Karin O’Neil Instructorship is John Chiavaroli.