Since 1984, the Ernest R. Caverly Award for Excellence in Teaching has been presented to Brookline educators in recognition of professional achievements and contributions to the Brookline Public Schools. Two awards are given annually: one to a high school educator and one to an elementary school educator. The educators receiving the awards are designated as Ernest R. Caverly Associates in recognition of their dedication to the ideals of Dr. Ernest R. Caverly, a distinguished public school leader, educator, and Brookline Schools Superintendent (1931-1964).

 Historical list of Caverly Recipients, 1984 to present

2021 Caverly Award Recipients:

Francesca Stark, Driscoll School and Elizabeth (Betsy) Davis, Brookline High School

Francesca Stark has been teaching at the Driscoll School for 25 years. She is the kind of teacher that students remember their whole lives as someone who makes learning come alive. Francesca was a student at Driscoll herself and had a fourth-grade teacher who scared everyone, including her. It was then that she decided that she would become a fourth-grade teacher, but be the kind of teacher she would have wanted to have. When the principal of Driscoll at the time heard that story, she hired her on the spot. As a (now fifth-grade) teacher, Francesca year after year successfully creates a strong and dedicated community of learners, who come to love learning for the sake of learning and are able to run the classroom themselves, even when she is not there. Her students know that they have a strong advocate in Ms. Stark, who will work tirelessly to help them persevere and hold themselves to a high standard, and parents know that she cares for their children as much as they do. An activist at heart, Francesca teaches her students to be activists as well, with assignments to write to legislators about issues that concern them. She also leads an after-school group focused on preserving the environment, open to Driscoll students in grades 5-8. As a leader, Francesca has mentored numerous student teachers and teaches education at Brandeis University. Francesca Stark embodies the best of Brookline teaching—dedicated, hard-working, creative, encouraging, bringing out the best in her students and colleagues, and never forgetting to have fun

Elizabeth (Betsy) Davis has been teaching at Brookline High School for 35 years. Madame Davis is known as much for her kindness and warmth as she is for her high standards and ability to get the most out of her students, often without them noticing how hard they are working. Betsy cares deeply about all of her students and creates a sense of caring and community in her class, which allows students to take risks and learn more, and feel comfortable doing it. Her commitment to teaching and her students is evidenced by the fact that her students will come to class early, stay late, and speak French with one another even when class is not in session. In addition to teaching French, Betsy is the International Student Advisor and is often the first person new international students meet when they come to Brookline High School. In this role, Betsy is known to be equally kind and caring, generous of her time and knowledge, and willing to help all students who need it. As a former English Learner teacher, a French teacher, the International Student  Advisor, and the point person for exchange programs at Brookline High School, all of her colleagues point to the many hats Betsy effortlessly wears, with grace, kindness, and caring for all people. She is also a mentor and leader with her colleagues, always working on improving curriculum, or getting a jump on technological learning before many other teachers. She always remembers to keep her students’ well-being at the center of what she does and makes a point to make everyone feel welcome. As a master teacher, a welcoming presence to international students, and a friend and mentor to her colleagues, Betsy Davis can now add Caverly winner to her list of accomplishments.

2019 Caverly Award Recipients: Laura Vish, Runkle School, and Mark VanDerzee, Brookline High School

Laura Vish has been called the “heart” of Runkle School by colleagues and parents. As a Speech and Language Pathologist who has worked in Brookline for 20 years, Laura’s job requires her to work closely with a large caseload of individual students who need S&L services, but she does so much more than that. Her contributions to the Runkle community include delivering executive function tools such as EmPOWER to many classrooms, creating a curriculum about life skills for RISE students, and being a mentor and collaborator to new teachers and specialists. In addition, she is a friendly face, comforting shoulder and gives warm hugs to countless students and teachers for whom she genuinely cares. We agree that Ms. Vish, in many ways, is the “heart” of Runkle for students, teachers and administrators alike, and the Brookline Education Foundation is proud to present the 2019 Caverly Award to her!

Mark VanDerzee

“Kind” and “generous” are words that come up repeatedly when people describe Mark VanDerzee. His kindness is demonstrated by the respect he shows his students, the empathy that he exudes and encourages them to demonstrate, and in the way in which he genuinely cares about his students. His generosity is evident in the time he devotes to his students, his colleagues, as well as in the calm support he give to everyone with whom he works. Since coming to BHS in 2001, Mark has taught Drama, Stagecraft, Sound and Lighting Design, and has served as the Performing Arts Tech Director. Ever popular with his students, Mark teaches life skills and professsionalism in addition to the course subject matter. His humility and dedication to his students and his craft are evident to all he comes in contact with. The Brookline Education Foundation is thrilled to award Mark VanDerzee with the 2019 Caverly Award.

2018 Caverly Award Recipients:

Beth Greenwood

Beth Greenwood has worked as a third-grade teacher at the Lincoln School since 2005. Her enthusiasm and love of learning are contagious to students, teachers, and parents alike. She takes time to really get to know all students in her class—with their strengths and weaknesses—and to bring out the best in them. As the co-director of the Lincoln middle school play, Ms. Greenwood has been instrumental in helping shy, quiet students positively shine in their roles in these impressive productions. As a mentor to student teachers, new teachers, and veteran teachers, she brings the same deep thoughtfulness and vast knowledge and wisdom to her colleagues as she does to the students in her classroom. When faced with dilemmas and complicated issues, students and teachers alike find themselves asking, “What would Ms. Greenwood do?”

Liz Gorman

Liz Gorman began her career in Brookline as a student at Brookline High School. Now a teacher, she is an inspiration to both her students and colleagues, and exudes a sense of calm, determination, and inspiration. Ms. Gorman is a trailblazer in both the World Language Department and the Health and Fitness Department. She has truly left her mark throughout the entire high school. She was a pioneering chaperone for the China Exchange program; she revitalized the Spanish curriculum for all levels of learners; she started the rock climbing classes and literally built the climbing wall herself; and she is also a skilled yoga instructor and fierce yoga advocate. Ms. Gorman is a formal and informal mentor to many teachers, and co-created the faculty and student wellness initiative. Liz Gorman is a doer and an agent of change. Today she can add Caverly Award winner to her long list of accomplishments.

2017 Caverly Award Recipients:

Dominique Ferdinand

Dominique Ferdinand has worked for 20 years as a Kindergarten teacher at the Lawrence school. Overflowing with warmth and kindness, Dominique embodies the perfect introduction to formal education. She makes learning fun and exciting, starting the day off with a song, and dressing up for 26 days as a representation of the letters of the alphabet. Dominique engages her students in the curriculum and teaches them to be citizens of the world.
Beyond the classroom, Dominique is continually learning and working to improve her craft, and is quick to help her colleagues in any way. Current and former students are always in her classroom before and after school, and current and former parents frequently ask her for advice, which she freely gives with thoughtfulness and warmth. One parent said that the examples of her excellence “might sound like far-fetched characteristics of a fictional teacher.” It is not a fairy tale, however; Dominique is a gifted, dedicated teacher and individual. She is now, also, a Caverly Award winner.

Betty Strong

Betty Strong has been teaching in the Brookline High School math department since 2000. When people describe Betty, the same words keep coming up: “collaborative”, “thoughtful”, and “amazing”. This is true of her work with students, as well as with her colleagues and the teachers she mentors. A true professional, Betty is constantly improving her knowledge and her craft by attending conferences, collaborating with peers, and working on various initiatives. She is not afraid to try new things or accept feedback from her colleagues and mentees.
Betty works hard to make sure that her classes are student-centered, and that she holds all students to a high standard. She is encouraging of all students, and she challenges all students in positive ways so that everyone in the class experiences growth. She uses that same energy and encouragement with the new teachers she mentors and advises. Betty is a true leader at the high school, and now she is also its newest Caverly Award winner.

2016 Caverly Award Recipients

In 2016, the Brookline Education Foundation was proud to honor the following outstanding exemplars of Excellence in Teaching:

Janice Guadette

Janice Gaudette‘s 31-year career at Devotion School has been spent working with students with a history of emotional disabilities in the Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC).  Her ability to find creative solutions to the complicated cases presented by the TLC population is widely praised, as is her willingness to share her expertise with colleagues, student teachers, and aides.
Gaudette invests countless hours working with students inside and outside the school, doing whatever is needed to help them succeed.  Parents call her “amazing,” a “goddess,” and a “miracle worker.”  She now can add to this list of accolades, “Caverly Award recipient.”

Jill Sifantus

Jill Sifantus is a master teacher, creative collaborator, supportive colleague, and caring mentor. Over the past fourteen years at Brookline High School, her many contributions to the science department have made in immense difference in the lives of both her students and fellow teachers. She has pioneered new biology courses, helped revamp existing ones, and selflessly mentored and acted as advisors to other educators.
In the classroom, Sifantus’ passion for biology, paired with her deep curiosity, wit, and life-long love of learning, are infectious. She constantly seeks to learn more and try new approaches to engage and challenge students.