As the school year came to a close, St. Luke’s faculty and staff gathered for a presentation of awards given to a few outstanding teachers and administrators. The awards included:
St. Luke’s Crusader of the Year Award: Julia Gabriele, Assistant Head of School for Finance & Operations
The award is given by St. Luke’s to the full-time member of the faculty and staff whose contribution to St. Luke’s far exceeds what is expected of her or him, thereby enriching the life and effectiveness of the School.
When presenting the award, Head of School Mark Davis shared:
“It will come as no surprise to anyone that one particular person received overwhelming support for the award. Until this year, it seemed as though this person had done every job that ever existed in the School and performed every task that anyone could think of to make the school not only run but, in fact, run with true excellence and vision. In order to put the lie to that appearance of super-humanness, of limitless ability to do everything under the sun while also making great cheese, we made up a new job, namely that of Acting Head of School for six months. Surely that would stump her, we thought, in spite of a 30-year career at St. Luke’s in which nothing ever had. Well, neither did this job, which she performed with aplomb, with a sure and even hand, with a broad and deep connection to students and colleagues and with a truly ‘Above and Beyond’ spirit.”
The Dr. Joseph R. Kidd Excellence in Teaching Award: Corliss Spencer, Upper School Math Teacher
This award is given by St. Luke’s School to a full-time teacher who exemplifies the ideals of St. Luke’s through excellence in the classroom, service to the entire School community, and dedication to the well being and growth of St. Luke’s students.
“This year’s recipient is the consummate teaching professional. Thorough, meticulously prepared, and deeply invested in student growth, she makes the most complicated subject matter accessible in a way her students could never have anticipated. Perhaps that’s because most summers she spends enrolled in graduate-level university classes in her discipline - not to get a degree, but simply to brush up on skills and acquire new content knowledge, which puts her back in the shoes of being a learner again on a regular basis.
Excellence extends beyond the classroom for this teacher, of course. She is tireless in giving time outside of class for extra help. When we talk about culture, we are talking about daily practices, and it’s a rare day that you won’t find this colleague running extra help sessions in the brand new Math Lab, establishing in its first year a culture for that space that seems destined to endure. Then, at the end of the day, she literally goes running, diligently setting the pace for students coursing through the fields, woods, and streets of New Canaan with her encouraging words to propel them. This year she also propelled the entire school forward in our efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive community, extending herself beyond her comfort zone and setting a brave example for all of us by creating the new SLS Reads faculty group and diving headlong into the work of the DEI search committee.”
The Tracy B. Duncan Innovation Award: Susan Bralower, Middle School Science Chair
This award recognizes the legacy of Tracy Duncan, St. Luke’s Trustee from 2007-2014 and parent of Buell '09, Annabelle '12, and Christian '14. The award is given to members of the St. Luke’s community whose innovative work has made a significant impact on the student experience and in the development of a culture of innovation here at the School.
These are some of the remarks Assistant Head of School for Leadership & Innovation Jim Foley shared when presenting the award:
“I think it’s only natural that we most frequently associate innovation with a single great idea, yet people who make a living studying innovation often point to the critical importance of systems thinking. Such thinkers examine the way that any system's parts interact and relate to one another and how they work over time and within the context of even larger systems. This historical perspective leads to a greater understanding of the evolution of situations, the patterns of behavior that contribute to them, and the Big Picture, which all those parts form. As a result, systems thinkers can identify multiple places where even small changes can be enormously influential when added together and taken cumulatively.
This year’s Duncan Award recipient is just such an innovator. She is a leader, someone who takes charge and takes initiative, but who runs with others’ ideas, too, galvanizing the entire team and weaving her ideas together with everyone else’s in order to craft an exceptional middle school journey for our students. Whether it’s how we end the school year, how we construct or even name a book of memories, or how we incorporate meaningful service opportunities into the necessary practice that 8th grade Declamations require, she approaches each year’s experience with an eye toward making it meaningfully better, not just refining it or smoothing out the rough edges; asking how might we improve the overall experience for everyone - students, teachers, and families. She’s an early adopter of professional learning opportunities, and she takes this same comprehensive approach and critical eye to her curriculum each year, so that an 8th grader’s journey through science today looks substantially different than it would have when they entered in 5th, with such milestones as the Mystery Box Homecoming challenge, balsa bridges, robots, and roller coasters that add up, piece by piece, to a systematic, comprehensively whole experience that is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.”
Forese Family Faculty Development Award: Mary Frederick, Upper School Math Chair
This inaugural award given by the Forese family is to fund professional growth and exploration that contributes to the advancement of teaching and learning at St. Luke’s School in enduring ways. This Faculty Development award is intended to fund projects of significant size and scope, requiring substantial commitments of time, and financial resources more in the range of $25k. Projects should align with the School’s stated strategic goals in advancing teaching and learning, yet they also might hold the promise of breaking new ground, thus encouraging the pursuit of creative and innovative projects.
Foley shared more about the award and this year’s recipient:
"The award could conceivably be used to cover travel, study, technology, curriculum development, resource costs, or other expenses. It could also be used to pay the salary of a part-time teacher hired to cover the courses of a faculty member working on a major project. Some professional development comes in the form of a workshop or an experience, but this award offers the possibility of simply carving out the time to do something big.
And in fact, the recipient of the inaugural Forese Family Faculty Development Award is taking on just such a major project. It is no small feat to lead a top-to-bottom, 5th-through-12th investigation, coordination, and alignment of an entire discipline’s curriculum, program, and pedagogy at St. Luke’s. It will require a major investment of time during the school day, which is itself the currency of school: time to observe classes; to reflect with and coach and listen to colleagues about their practice; to research and write and refine lesson plans and other resources for both faculty & students; to navigate separate MS & US division schedules in the process; and to craft the blueprints for a student’s journey through mathematics that rises to the complex needs and challenges of a rapidly changing world."
There were also fond farewells for retiring Middle School English teacher Frank Henson, who was sent off in style with a new St. Luke’s jacket.