Celebrating Teachers

The Brookline Education Foundation's annual event in May, "Celebrating Teachers," is a special opportunity to celebrate the talent, enthusiasm, and dedication that Brookline's educators bring to our schools each day. The work of Brookline teachers comes to life at this event with a new student performance every year.

We hope that you will be able to join us for Celebrating Teachers on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at 3:30pm at the Newbury College Student Center, 129 Fisher Avenue in Brookine for this wonderful event.

Recipients of teacher, collaborative, and systemwide grants, as well as the Adam Russell Gelfand Fellowship and the Charlie Baker Legacy Award will be announced. The highlight of the event is the introduction of the Caverly Award recipients. It is truly a wonderful event and a great opportunity to show your appreciation for our inspiring and dedicated teachers.

The 2016 Caverly Award recipients are Devotion School's Theraputic Learning Center teacher Janice Gaudette and Brookline High School biology teacher Jill Sifantus. Don't miss the announcement of the 2017 recipients at our May 17 Celebrating Teachers event.

 

TO BE HONORED AND INSPIRED by Philip Katz


Brookline TAB, May 26th, 2004. 
Last week, I attended the annual Brookline Foundation's Celebrating Teachers event. It brought into focus once again why, as the president of the Brookline Educators Association, I am honored and inspired by my colleagues and fellow union members.

After some regular business, the foundation members turned their full attention to celebrating the teachers of the Brookline Public Schools. First, they announced the recipients of grants. Each year, the foundation awards grants to teachers to pursue professional and personal development. This year, the foundation announced the awarding of 24 grants to more than 150 staff members, totaling almost $110,000.

The foundation supports activities that are as interesting as they are diverse. For instance, it is sponsoring a teacher who will study biology in Arizona and a group of teachers who will study how best to support students with special needs in World Language classes. The activities represent such diversity, ingenuity, thoughtfulness of preparation and depth of professional dedication that I am in awe.

Then came the highlight of the Celebrating Teachers event - the presentation of Caverly Awards. Each year, two educators are recognized for their professional achievements and contributions. This year's "Caverlies" went to Jay Sugarman and Steve Lantos. The honor and inspiration I had during the grant announcements increased by an order of magnitude when Superintendent Richard Silverman described the accomplishments of these two teachers. Those feelings increased by another order of magnitude when I heard their acceptance speeches.

Jay Sugarman has taught fourth grade at the Runkle School for 25 years. He has made enormous contributions to education, both within Brookline and beyond its borders. This is Jay's eighth award honoring his work locally, statewide and nationally. Jay has also taught and created programs at many higher ed institutions here and across the country. If you haven't met him during these 25 years through his work directly with more than 500 children or his effect on thousands, you may know him as host of Brookline Access Television's "Education Today: The Brookline Schools and Beyond."

Steve Lantos has taught chemistry and math at Brookline High School for 19 years. While holding many state and national honors, Steve is totally embroiled in life in Brookline, his hometown. He coaches the BHS ski team, mentors in the African-American Scholars Program, founded and is a member of the BHS Faculty Council, chairs the School Within a School Agenda Committee, and advises the Next Step Group. He also is the BEA's science department representative and serves on the BEA grievance committee, helping his colleagues through difficult times.

In receiving their awards, Sugarman and Lantos both talked about the teachers that inspired them when they were in school. They both talked about how they became teachers (both by chance!) and what it's like to teach and be teachers. They both mentioned colleagues more often than I can count. In a profession that can naturally drift to isolation, they reach out to their colleagues for help and to help them.

Their work in Brookline is a labor of love. Like all great teachers, they work to strengthen not only students' knowledge, but also their intellects and their love of learning - something that is getting more and more difficult as we increase the emphasis placed on standardized testing. They mix seriousness and playfulness to make the classroom a wondrous place, a place where student learn and have fun learning. They pilot new materials, try new teaching techniques and reach out to their students in ways no one can imagine. An insightful and intriguing statement tied it all together - Steve called teaching a risky business. It is a business where we bare our souls, make thousands of decisions every day, face hundreds of dilemmas, invite challenges and take on enormous responsibility. He noted that a colleague has said that there is a fine line between being an award-winning teacher and being fired.

My best feelings come from knowing that these grant recipients and Caverly awardees are just the tip of the iceberg. Brookline teachers, specialists, administrators and support staff mirror the dedication, ingenuity, intelligence and passion of this year's winners. To the great benefit of Brookline, they are all winners.

As the end of the school year approaches, many parents (and grandparents) wonder how they can thank their children's teachers for all their wonderful, inspirational, risky, hard work. May I suggest giving to the Brookline Education Foundation in honor of a teacher? That gift will be multiplied by others and used to honor and celebrate all of us who serve Brookline. 

Philip Katz, a regular TAB columnist, was president of the Brookline Education Association.