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May 18, 2000

Princeton Honors Secondary School Teachers

Princeton, N.J. -- Princeton University will honor four outstanding New Jersey secondary-school teachers at its 2000 Commencement.

This year's honorees are: Agnes Colaneri of Emerson High School, Union City; Julius Gottilla of Cranford High School, Cranford; Gerald Lamb of Livingston High School, Livingston; and Linda Penney of Cranbury School, Cranbury.

Each teacher will receive $5,000 plus $2,500 for his or her school library.

"This honor is Princeton's way to acknowledge the important work that secondary school teachers do to prepare students for this and every university," said Marue Walitzer, director of Princeton's Teacher Preparation Program, which administers the award each year. "Without good teaching at the high school, we would be unable to achieve the kind of work that students do at the university."

Agnes Colaneri

Colaneri, who teaches English, life skills and reading at Emerson High School, is also coordinator of the Focus on Success Program for at-risk students, which she calls "the most exciting task of my teaching career."

At Emerson for 30 years, Colaneri says her career was revitalized in the early 1990s when Union City's schools were on the brink of a state takeover. As part of a school restructuring, she was invited to help design a course of study for students performing below grade level, and began to learn about integrating new technology into the classroom. Eventually she became part of Bell Atlantic's Project Explore Multimedia Education Trial.

"It is not enough to state that I am a teacher," she says. "I must do for myself what I challenge my students to do every day -- I must continue to learn and grow."

A 1969 graduate of Seton Hall University, Colaneri has a 1975 MA from Jersey City University.

Julius Gottilla

Gottilla, who has been at Cranford High School for 10 years, teaches English and English electives and serves as coach to the forensics and academic teams.

Among his innovative teaching techniques is a method of introducing students to fragments of unfamiliar poems and helping them "fill in the gaps." This encourages them "to take risks, draw on their own experiences, speculate and become actively involved in understanding the text," he says.

Before Cranford, Gottilla was at East Orange High School, where he founded electives in modern poetry and creative writing; and at Roselle Catholic High, where he was adviser to the literary magazine.

He has been a teacher since 1970, when he graduated from Rutgers University. He has master's degrees in English from New York University (1973) and in Philosophical Resources from Fordham University (1980). He is publications coordinator for the NJ Council of Teachers of English and co-editor of the New Jersey English Journal

Gerald E. Lamb

Lamb teaches all levels of math at Livingston High School, from basic skills through AP calculus. He began teaching in 1974 and was at Verona High School for 10 years before going to Livingston, where he has been since 1989.

After earning his 1979 MA from Montclair State University, Lamb wrote curriculum for several new courses on mathematical modeling, pre-algebra and calculus, which include using technology in innovative ways. For his department he has conducted workshops on using calculators to teach math, designing computer lab activities and alternative assessment in geometry.

"My basis approach to teaching has evolved from a subject-oriented emphasis to a student-oriented approach," Lamb says. "Fulfillment comes when you make a difference in the lives of others and take yourself out of the equation."

He has received numerous teaching awards, including the 1988 Governor's Teacher Recognition Award and state level for the 1989 Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Math.

Linda Penney

Penney, a 1968 graduate of Trenton State College, teaches math at Cranbury School, which includes students in kindergarten through eighth grade. She has taught at Cranbury for 20 years.

In 1984 Penney became involved with the Mathcounts program, a series of competitions designed to enhance math abilities of seventh and eighth graders. Since then she has served as coach to 11 first-place teams at the regional level and six at the state level, and received three citations as a top coach at the national level.

For the past few years Penney has been active in promoting involvement of girls in Mathcounts. In 1998, two of the four members of the Cranbury team that won the state competition were female.

To help train her "mathletes," Penney established a club that met in the evening. "Despite the fact that the students received no snacks, no extra credit -- just math for two hours in the evening -- the room was always full of boys and girls," she says.

The four teachers were selected after an intensive review process, which began in October when the principal of every public, private and parochial secondary school in the state was invited to submit a nomination.

Each nomination included supporting letters from colleagues and students. The teachers also had to submit a statement of their philosophy of teaching.

A selection committee consisting of Princeton's Dean of the College, two Princeton professors and two outside education professionals chose about a dozen finalists, and an observer visited each finalist at work.

Princeton has honored secondary-school teachers since 1959, using an anonymous gift from an alumnus.