three teachers

Three Faculty Members Earn Academic Honors

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During the Academic Awards ceremony held on October 6, Dean of Faculty Peter Valine presented three faculty members with two chairs and an instructorship. Congratulations to these dedicated teachers! His statements are as follows:

Grubbs Faculty Chair, Jeff Ketcham, Science Faculty

The Grubbs Faculty Chair was established in 1999 by trustees and friends of the school in honor of Denny Grubbs in his final year as Headmaster. It is awarded to a faculty member whose life has been Williston Northampton and teaching.

The Grubbs Chair recipient is a master teacher who has been inspiring Williston students in the sciences for twenty years. His own curiosity and love of learning allows him to serve his students well in the constantly evolving disciplines of biology and environmental science. His students benefit both from his depth of knowledge in the content area and his injection of esoteric fun facts into the lesson plan that spice up the learning process. His expertise, his passion for science, and his sense of humor all combine to enliven the learning experience for his students. His effective organizational skills are an important key to his teaching success. He is intentional in the design and construction of the curriculum to achieve the desired student outcomes.

His students appreciate the logical scaffolding of content and skills that enable them to thrive. This engineered approach is particularly important in the successful pacing of the two AP courses he currently teaches. His pedagogy typically merges a combination of well prepared and detailed presentations, innovative labs, and student-centered discussions. He urges his students to visualize the challenging concepts and to constantly reframe their understandings. His clear expectations empower his students to strive toward the high bar he sets for their learning and performance. He requires that his science students become independent thinkers who “think beyond the textbook.” As one AP Biology student recently commented, “The class is very hard, but there are plenty of resources provided to us to succeed and the material is taught well.” His familiarity and facility in the sciences enables him to make meaningful interdisciplinary connections and observations that enrich the learning process. He also builds student interest and engagement through sharing relevant real-life applications of the material. He hosts a cutting edge genetics conference on campus each year, and integrates off-campus field trips like an annual visit to a local recycling plant to reinforce concepts. One of his practices that students greatly appreciate is his ability to provide timely and helpful feedback. He is very prompt and efficient in returning tests and quizzes, and he takes the time to thoroughly go over these evaluations with an eye to clarifying concepts and reinforcing mastery of the material. In recognition of his passionate commitment to science at the Williston Northampton School as a teacher and former Department Chair it is my privilege to announce that Jeff Ketcham is the new recipient of the Grubbs Faculty Chair.

The Mesics lnstructorship, Matt Porter, Science Faculty

The Mesics lnstructorship was established in 2001 by Sandra B. and Joseph C. Mesics. Sandra was a member of the Northampton School for Girls class of 1955. This instructorship recognizes a young faculty member’s initiatives in and out of the classroom.

The Mesics lnstructorship recipient arrived on campus in the fall of 2016 and his presence was quickly evident in all phases of school life. In the classroom, his ability to connect with his students and build their trust provides a strong foundation for effective learning. His students enjoy coming to class because of his consistently upbeat demeanor that pervades the classroom. He is positive, energetic and funny and the mix of those characteristics keeps his students focused and engaged.

As a young teacher who joined Williston right after college he displays an innate knack for finding just the right balance between the seriousness and importance of the quest for learning and making this process zestful and fun. His well-prepared lesson plans successfully engage the students as he creatively employs games, experiments, movies, and activities to bring the concepts in his field of psychology to life. He is an effective communicator who is willing to listen as well as to explain. His extensive knowledge of the different branches of psychology enables him to provide his students with concrete examples to illustrate and clarify the concepts he is teaching. His students are pushed to challenge themselves and to produce their best work. One of his students highlighted his ability to motivate and encourage each learner by noting that “He is always telling us that we can do it, that we are smart, and that we just need to trust ourselves.”

Outside the classroom, Mark Conroy notes that the Mesics recipient is one of the most gifted young coaches he has worked with in his 33 years as an athletic director. As in the classroom, his success hinges on relationship building. He develops a strong bond with his players by supporting them not only as athletes but through taking an interest in their lives outside the realm of athletics. He is blessed with the rare quality of being a natural teacher and leader who is able to motivate and to command the respect and attention of the athletes on his teams. He is a passionate coach who nurtures the love of the game in his players. He also understands how athletics can reinforce the qualities of discipline, commitment, and teamwork that are important in all areas of life. He sets clear expectations for his athletes and holds them to these standards. The players respond to him because they know he also applies these high standards to himself.

Finally, the new Mesics recipient is an integral part of our residential life program. He is an attentive advisor and a responsible dorm parent. In his interactions with students he is an active listener who seeks first to understand and then offers sage advice. He provides an important service to our community as a dedicated advocate for Williston’s BIPOC students. As an advisor to the Black Student Union he invests a substantial amount of time and energy into this leadership role in which he provides a safe outlet and a thoughtful sense of direction for our students. In short, he is a faculty member who is highly respected by colleagues and students alike.
It is my pleasure to announce that the new Mesics lnstructorship recipient is Matt Porter.

Granniss Chair, Katie Loomis, Language Faculty

The Granniss Faculty Chair was established in 1999 by Eugenie Granniss, widow of Charles Gardiner Granniss who was a member of the Williston class of 1929. It is awarded to a faculty member who personifies the pure joy of sharing the process of learning.

The Granniss Chair recipient effectively instills a love of learning in her students. Her own passion for language acquisition and for the craft of teaching is clearly evident and students feed off her enthusiasm. Her students can easily observe that “Ms. Loomis is excited to be teaching us”. In addition to modeling the joy of language learning, the interest she takes in each of her students reinforces the sense that classroom is a safe environment in which they feel valued. She treats her students with kindness and respect, while simultaneously holding them accountable for their learning with a firmness that highlights the importance of their work. She encourages students to ask questions and her adoption of a selfless approach to extra help reveals to her students that she really cares about them. Her interactive and engaging pedagogy lures the students to become risk takers as they hone and practice their language skills. She employs a variety of dynamic, student-centered exercises that includes games, visual images, and kinesthetic movements to reinforce conceptual understandings. Her students are active learners who are continually developing their listening and speaking skills through activities that teach the elements of Spanish language and culture. By injecting a little competition and play into the lesson plan with Battleship, Bingo, Slapjack, and Kahoot, she entices students to more energetically commit to the learning process.

As former Language Department Chair Beatrice Cody notes, “Her students not only learn the new vocabulary and grammar-they perform it.” She requires her students to be fully immersed in the target language as she holds them to high standards. Her students appreciate her patience as they grapple with the language, and they commend her ability to make the necessary adjustments that help them overcome linguistic barriers. While she offers clues and different ways to explain the questions they are exploring, she insists that the students discover the answers for themselves.

As one student recently commented “She always makes sure I am trying my best and putting out my best work.” Her colleagues benefit from the positive and cheerful attitude she brings to work each day. They appreciate her thoughtful suggestions and innovative ideas in discussions on curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. She generously volunteers to cover classes for colleagues and eagerly assists department initiatives. In recognition of the joy she brings to her teaching and to her students, It is my pleasure to announce that the new Granniss Chair recipient is Katie Loomis.