May 11, 2010

Stanford University Recognizes Contributions of Secondary School Teachers to College Success

Each year, Stanford University invites nearly 50 secondary school teachers to on-campus ceremonies celebrating the accomplishments of seniors graduating at the top of their class in either engineering or humanities and sciences. These events honor the most memorable, inspirational, or just plain talented teachers across the nation and around the world.

And they truly come from all over. At the 2010 Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Awards ceremony, teachers arrived from nine states and four countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Armenia. Two weeks later, the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award winners invited teachers from 11 states, as well as Iceland and China.

Both the Sterling and Terman awards are presented to students ranking in the top two to five percent of graduating seniors in either the School of Humanities and Sciences or the School of Engineering. Each recipient nominates a high school teacher who has been most influential in the student’s academic career, and Stanford picks up the tab for travel and lodging.

Locally, two Fairfax County teachers were recently invited to Palo Alto for separate events. Pat Gabriel, long-time math teacher and math team organizer at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, was honored at the Terman Engineering Awards ceremony, and Dr. John Dell, physics teacher also from TJHSST, was a guest of honor at the 2010 Sterling Awards luncheon.

But Stanford isn’t the only university recognizing the contributions of high school teachers to college success. Cornell’s top seniors annually honor 36 high school teachers through the Merill Presidential Scholars Program, and MIT invites current students to nominate their favorite teachers for the Inspirational Teacher Award. Williams College awards the Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching at Class Day in June, while the University of Scranton recognizes high school teachers through the Rose Kelly Awards. Happily, Amherst College extends the honor to include counselors among those recognized for their influence on the success of graduates through the Phebe and Zephania Swift Moore Teaching Awards at Commencement.

One of Cornell’s honored teachers said of the Merrill Presidential Scholars program, “I have received several awards over the years, but this will rank as number one since I received it from one of my students. What more can a teacher ask for?!”

And Stanford’s Dean of Engineering Jim Plummer sums up the real value of these honors, “Of all the events that we do each year, this really is the most special. It’s a chance for all of us to talk about a group of people who do not get the recognition they truly deserve.”

Amen to that.

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