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St. Luke’s 2019-2020 Faculty & Staff Awards

Last Friday, awards were announced for a few members of faculty and staff who went above & beyond during the 2019-2020 school year. Head of School Mark Davis and Assistant Head of School for Leadership & Innovation Jim Foley spoke about the awards and this year’s recipients during an online SLS faculty/staff meeting.

The following awards were announced:

Duncan Innovation Award: Upper School Science Teacher Dr. John Higgins
The Tracy B. Duncan Innovation Award Fund awards innovative members of the SLS community whose work has made a significant impact on the St. Luke’s student experience and in the development of a culture of innovation at SLS.

The intent of this fund is to recognize the legacy of Tracy Duncan (St. Luke’s trustee from 2007-2014 and SLS parent of thirteen years with Buell '09, Annabelle '12, Christian '14), whose exemplary service to the School catalyzed creativity and innovation, while preserving the School’s culture and values; wholeheartedly supported and encouraged the faculty, administration, and students; and directly fostered a culture of innovation and collaboration at St. Luke’s.

These remarks were shared by Jim Foley:
This year’s recipient is a person with a Ph.D. who could easily stand and lecture all day… but that’s not what an innovator does. They look for ways to engage students, to capture their imaginations, to teach them teamwork and to help them fall in love with the world in all its beauty and complexity. They believe in making student learning visible and connecting students’ academic work to our mission, while incorporating service and leadership. They encourage students to use the academic curriculum as an opportunity to raise awareness among peers and in the community, by creating special class Meditations and public advocacy campaigns. They get students to ask questions, such as “Could we help prevent a Giant Pacific Octopus from dying of boredom in captivity?” and then go on to use the SLS designLab to design, prototype, and laser cut plexiglass puzzles to test with Norwalk Maritime Aquarium’s giant octopus.

We should have known he was an innovator from the very first CELL-ebration. . . that annual event when his classroom was transformed from a bio lab to the inside of a single cell, with teams of students working together to physically construct everything from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi apparatus, and, to demonstrate their learning, giving guided tours to parents, teachers, peers, and other visitors.

Dr. Joseph Kidd Excellence in Teaching Award: Leo “Magistra” Mahler
This award is given to a full-time teacher who exemplifies the ideals of St. Luke’s through excellence in the classroom, service to the total School community, and dedication to the well being and growth of SLS students.

These remarks were shared by Mark Davis:
This year’s recipient epitomizes the excellence of the St. Luke’s faculty. They do more than just embrace the spirit of continuous improvement to which we all are dedicated – consistently, every year, they create brand new projects and class experiences that bring their discipline to life. I’m not sure a year has gone by when they didn’t completely rewrite at least one course! They are endlessly creative and playful – in fact, a project this year that had students modeling the political discourse of a bygone era actually set off our Gaggle email alert system, which sounded alarms because of the devious, twisted, backstabbing plots the students were devising. Fortunately, some telltale grammar and syntax giveaways allowed us to simply check in that all was well.
There may be no one on our faculty more fiercely dedicated to young people. Prioritizing every child’s emotional safety and well-being, they create a classroom experience purposefully designed to allow personal connection to flourish. They bring that same level of dedication to the theater program, every day after school, spending long hours, paying close attention to every detail of every production, the same care with which they guide our youngest students in the Middle School Diversity Leadership Council. It is never about them – it is always about the students, and anyone who has ever had the good fortune of watching their students file out at the end of a period, each one sent away with a smile and an individual farewell and a final word (in Latin, of course), can see that they exemplify exceptional care and dedication to kids, who trust and admire them deeply.

Crusader of the Year: St. Luke’s Technology Team
(Eleanor Page, Matt Bavone, PJ Clarke, Roger D’Agostin, Bryan DeVissiere, Eli Fendelman, and Sasha Mathrani)
This award is given to the full-time faculty/staff member whose contribution to St. Luke’s far exceeds what is expected of them, thereby enriching the life and effectiveness of the School.

These remarks were shared by Mark Davis:
We have a lot of long-standing traditions and customs at St. Luke’s, including with the year-end awards. However, with the Crusader of the Year Award, we’re going to break from tradition this year, and I think everyone will clearly recognize why. After all, just look at us here together on Zoom right now – we are hardly in “ordinary” times.

So, by overwhelming acclaim, you, the faculty and staff requested – I should probably say demanded – that we give this year’s award not to a single person, as we customarily do, but instead to an utterly incredible team. In fact, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen so many all-caps responses in our voting for this award… which typically went something like this: “THEY ARE INCREDIBLE!! TRULY INCREDIBLE!”

And what exactly did you recognize in your acclaim? Well, what we all see everyday – that this team gets notably better all the time. However, this year, they have astounded everyone. During this pandemic, they've been working harder than ever, which is saying a lot, because they are always working very hard. That they solved problems before we even knew we had them. That they are not just willing, but in fact eager to help faculty and students – they even showed up to our houses to hand-deliver the tools we needed to do our jobs. That our lessons are more dynamic because of the help they offered, and that everyone feels comfortable coming to them for help has been universally recognized. And that without their infinite patience, unparalleled knowledge and skill, their willingness to go above and beyond, and their grace, subtlety, and good humor, St. Luke's would never have been able to thrive and excel the way that we have as an independent school during this pandemic, everyone here knows to be undeniably true.

Ed Scovner Excellence in Middle School Teaching Award: MS Math Teacher Jay Blau.
Earlier in the week, Head of Middle School Amber Berry presented this award during the Middle School Town Meeting.

The Scovner Award is given to a Middle School teacher who has most inspired students to fulfill their potential through his/her commitment, deep affection for students, and, most importantly, distinctive style and approach to teaching.

Retiring from St. Luke’s: Kathleen Murphy & Nancy Walsh
The online meeting concluded with heartfelt farewells for St. Luke’s newest retirees Kathleen Murphy (Annual Fund Director) and Nancy Walsh (Middle School Math Teacher).

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St. Luke’s School is a secular private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.