Four Williston Teachers Awarded Instructorships

Ed. note: Dean of Faculty Peter Valine presented four instructorships during an all-school assembly on September 16. Here is the text of his remarks:

The Emily N. McFadon Vincent ’49 and Bob E. Vincent Instructorship was established in 2007 by Emily N. McFadon Vincent, Class of 1949 and her husband Bob to recognize a young faculty member’s initiatives in and out of the classroom.

The recipient of the Vincent Instructorship joined the Williston community in 2014 and has quickly earned the respect of his students and colleagues. His chemistry students appreciate his depth and breadth of knowledge in the content area. His affinity for science is not surprising given he inherited a dominant gene for the discipline from his father who was a distinguished science professor in genetics and molecular biology.

Chris Pelliccia with Head of School Robert w. Hill III and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine
Chris Pelliccia with Head of School Robert w. Hill III and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine

His students admire his passion for chemistry and one of his students recently remarked that he “just looks happy to be teaching.” He treats his students with respect and patience, and in return they find him to be fair and consistent in his approach and in his grading. A strength of his teaching is that his pedagogy is varied with an effective balance between lecture, lab, and group work. He encourages his students to ask questions by creating an atmosphere of trust and kindness. He answers the questions they ask with concise responses that are both accurate and accessible. Through the use of creative and helpful examples in his lectures, and by employing learning and review games with Kahoot he keeps his students interested and engaged.

The goal for his students is to not only acquire scientific knowledge, but to apply it. His Williston Scholars students, for example, were excited to have conversations or Skype interviews with scientists from various fields. This summer he modeled his own active approach to scientific study by traveling to Bozeman, Montana, where his studies included a week-long animal biodiversity course in which he traveled throughout Yellowstone National Park observing bison, pronghorn, wolves, and bears as well as examining the geology of the region. He noted that this experience showed him biological processes on a macro scale that are the result of genetic processes he teaches that occur on a very micro scale.

Outside the classroom he is a dorm parent, ski coach, and the head coach of the varsity track and field team. In all these endeavors with students he is enthusiastic, encouraging, and well prepared. His professionalism is always evident, and he is a wonderful role model for our whole community.

The Emily N. McFadon and Bob E. Vincent Instructorship is awarded to Chris Pelliccia.

The Northampton School For Girls Instructorship was established in 1999 by the alumnae of the school to note the importance of that school in their lives and to support the focus on the education of young women that remains a part of the commitment of the merged schools.

The new recipient of the NSFG Instructorship arrived on the Williston campus in 2013 a little differently than most of her peers. She never came to campus for an interview, never met any of her teaching colleagues, and accepted the position relatively sight unseen. Since she was living across the continent in Washington state- she and we took a chance on this virtual match-and we have been thrilled ever since that she decided to join our community.

Carey Baldwin, Head of School Robert W. Hill III, and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine
Carey Baldwin, Head of School Robert W. Hill III, and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine

She is a true scholar with a strong background in teaching both physics and math. Her love of numbers knows no bounds, and she is on a personal quest to make her students love numbers as much as she does. Her enthusiasm, patience, and positive attitude create a classroom environment in which her students feel valued and supported. She is a creative teacher whose classroom is filled with a variety of activities and is richly laced with technology that both engages the students and effectively supports her learning goals.

She is successful in getting her students to view themselves as statisticians. She engages the them by using cleverly constructed, real world examples and she teaches them the jargon of the statistician. They approach the problems as analysts as they learn to organize data webs, understand and identify patterns, and utilize graphs to make data more accessible. The second floor hallway of the Schoolhouse is typically adorned with live stat collections, and it is not uncommon to see her students outside collecting data for a project in which they can demonstrate and apply their understandings of the concepts. When asked on a survey what they learned in the class, one of her students replied, “I learned that friends don’t let friends extrapolate!”

It is perhaps not surprising that our Northampton School for Girls recipient is a life-long learner who is intrinsically motivated to grow in her career. This year she is bringing great energy and new ideas to our community as the Academic Technology Director in supporting her colleagues with the integration of technology in the classroom. She is also currently advancing her own knowledge in the content area by working toward a master’s degree from Colorado State University. Our community is fortunate that her case of numerophilia is not in remission as she continues to live and work by the numbers.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Northampton School For Girls Instructorship is awarded to Carey Baldwin.

The George E. and Catherine B. Gregory Instructorship was established in 2007 by Dick Gregory, former faculty member, in honor of his parents. The purpose of this instructorship is to recognize the initiatives of a young faculty member in the Fine Arts-in and out of the classroom.

The Gregory Instructorship recipient is beginning her eighth year at Williston in a tenure that has included teaching both English and performing arts. Her energy, enthusiasm, and expertise has inspired her students and she has continued the tradition of a strong and vibrant theater program at Williston.

Emily Ditkovski with Head of School Robert W. Hill III and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine
Emily Ditkovski with Head of School Robert W. Hill III and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine

One of her mantras is, “If you don’t feel silly, you aren’t doing it right!” She intentionally strives to take students out of their comfort zone and make them stretch themselves to create growth and to build confidence. I learned this first hand when I was observing her class several years ago. When I was participating in the warm-up she prompted me to roar like a lion and then to contort my face as if I were eating a sour lemon. She understands that the skills she is developing in theater class are not only acting skills, but life skills. I saw this trait most recently during senior orientation where she had members of the senior class pair off and have a duel in which they crossed their arms and covered their knees. The goal was to protect your own knees while attempting to touch their rival’s exposed kneecap. This activity stressed the necessity of making yourself vulnerable by taking your hand off your own knee in order to make the touch and win the game.

Her success in the classroom and in the theater is built on her genuine interest in her students and actors, the environment of trust that surrounds these young people, and her constructive and continual feedback that pushes each student to reach for the next level. In one class I observed she was teaching the concept of pace and she told one young man, “By rushing through your lines you are telling the audience that you don’t want to be on stage…but you deserve to be up here, so take the time to annunciate and read your lines well. You can do it.” She is used to working with both novice and experienced actors in the same production and she has learned to differentiate the process in ways that are appropriate for each individual.

This summer she practiced what she preaches by leaving her own comfort zone by playing Lady Macbeth in a summer Shakespeare production. In reflecting on her experience she wrote:

“At each turn….. from having second thoughts at the audition, to the nerves of the read through, to the excitement of opening night I’ve thought of my students—and the bravery required to do what I ask of them.”

The George E. and Catherine B. Gregory Instructorship is awarded to Emily Ditkovski.

The Karin O’Neil Instructorship was established in 2001 by alumni and friends and named for former Associate Head of School Karin O’Neil who, until her departure that year, directed much of the school’s program for over 30 years and enabled the school to achieve great progress and to aspire to the highest levels of scholarship and engagement with student success.

 The O’Neil Instructorship is given this year to a teacher who, like Karin O’Neil, has dedicated her career to sharing her passion and talents with Williston students and peers.

Janine Whipple with Head of School Robert W. Hill III and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine
Janine Whipple with Head of School Robert W. Hill III and Dean of Faculty Peter Valine

In her 25 years at Williston she has taught students of all ages. No matter their age or mathematics level her students know that she will push them, that she will demand their focus and attention, and that she will hold the bar high. No matter their age or mathematics level they also know that she will encourage them, cajole them, pick them up when they fall short, and that she is utterly committed to their success. As one of her students wrote: “Math is hard for me, and if it were not for my teacher I would be completely lost. She explains things very well and she is always willing to work with me until I understand.”

Her teaching is rooted in guiding the students through a process of investigation and discovery. She is a well-organized lesson planner who establishes clear learning objectives and then provides the necessary repetition, feedback, and patience that promotes learning. She introduces the concepts thoroughly, her notes provide a clear map for the students to follow, and she is absolutely selfless in her willingness to provide extra help. She earns high marks from her students for her ability to teach even the most abstract math concepts in ways that are accessible. She understands that students learn differently and encourages students to employ different methods and to uncover different paths to the solution.

This O’Neil recipient has also had a profound influence on many Williston students outside the walls of the math classroom. She is a dedicated advisor, she has served as a dorm parent, and she is a talented coach who brings basketball acumen and a sense of purpose and intensity to the sideline. She is a teacher and motivator who brings out the best in her players, and she strives to have the team be greater than the sum of its individual parts. With energy, enthusiasm, and a keen sense of humor she has inspired her students and athletes to attain the highest levels of scholarship and performance. At the end of a self-evaluation she once wrote, “Whether it is math, basketball, or life lessons I want the students to know that I enjoy passing on my passion and knowledge.”

On this occasion it seems appropriate to award the O’Neil Instructorship to a Williston teacher whose tenure overlapped with Karin O’Neil. I am pleased to present the O’Neil Instructorship to Janine Whipple.

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