News from PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
Office of Communications
Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
Telephone 609-258-3601; Fax 609-258-1301
For immediate release: May 28, 2002
Contact: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, 609-258-3601 or
Princeton honors secondary school teachers
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Princeton University will honor four
outstanding New Jersey secondary school teachers at its 2002
Commencement June 4.
This year's honorees are: Helen Aslanides of
Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood; Helen Bryce of
Lakewood High School, Lakewood; Anne McCormick of
Jackson Memorial High School, Jackson; and James
Quinlan of Vernon Township High School, Vernon.
"In an era when there are so many concerns regarding the
quality of our nation's schools, it's refreshing to be able
to see firsthand the extraordinary competence of many of our
state's classroom teachers," said John Webb, director of
Princeton's Program in Teacher Preparation, which
administers the awards. "The four teachers we selected from
a pool of 94 exceptional nominees represent the finest that
our schools have to offer."
Each teacher will receive $5,000 as well as $2,500 for
his or her school library.
The four teachers were selected after an intensive review
process which began in October when the principals of every
public, private and parochial secondary school in the state
were invited to submit a nomination with supporting
information from colleagues, students and the nominated
A selection committee consisting of Webb, Dean of the
College Nancy Malkiel, two Princeton professors and two
external education professionals chose about a dozen
finalists, and an observer visited each finalist at
Princeton has honored secondary school teachers since
1959. The University received an anonymous gift from an
alumnus to establish the program.
Following is information about the honorees:
Helen Aslanides teaches American history to 11th and 12th
graders using the Socratic method. Her class operates as an
intellectual conversation among students, with Aslanides
providing primary source documents to fuel debate and
interjecting thought-provoking questions. Students form
their own opinions, learn to articulate them and take the
discussion to heart. Debates about the issues raised in her
class continue in the hallway and on weekends.
"Ms. Aslanides did not help us learn the history of the
United States. She helped us understand history," said Rina
Fujii, one of her students. "Instead of blindly memorizing
facts, we tried to analyze history in its entirety."
Over a 37-year teaching career at Ridgewood High School,
Aslanides has gone down some unorthodox paths with her
students, and she always has found those journeys successful
and edifying. "I learned to trust the motivations of
students and to respect their curiosity and interests," she
said. "I found that my confidence in them was not
She also has helped students pursue a wide variety of
interests outside the classroom by acting as coordinator for
numerous groups and events, including the Martin Luther King
Jr. Social Action Club, the Asian Festival, the
Mediterranean Festival and a women's issues group.
When she is on vacation, Aslanides often travels the
world to improve her scholarship, going to Hawaii for an
Asian studies seminar, to Israel to take a course in Jewish
studies and to Washington, D.C., for a summer institute on
the Supreme Court. She brings those experiences back to her
classroom. "Every student in her classes -- each one of them
-- feels challenged and valued," said John Mucciolo,
Aslanides earned her bachelor's degree at Montclair State
College and her master's degree from Columbia University.
She has received the Governor's Teacher Recognition Award
and the Ashby Award, the highest honor bestowed on a staff
member at the Ridgewood public schools.
Students at Lakewood High School say Helen Bryce is the
most demanding teacher they ever had -- and their favorite
one. "Mrs. Bryce is known throughout the school as being, by
far, the toughest teacher when it comes to grading essays.
Very few papers make it through her fingers without being
scarred by the many marks of the infamous blood-red pen,"
said Sarah Mahon, one of her students. But she went on to
say, "Mrs. Bryce is the most inspiring teacher that I have
been privileged to have in the classroom."
Bryce's high expectations for the students in her English
classes have caused students to raise expectations for
themselves. Kevin Houtz, a fellow teacher who has acted as a
substitute for Bryce on occasion, reported that "students
who were behavior problems in other classes were not so in
Mrs. Bryce's class."
She has demanded much of her students not just in the
classroom, but outside of it. Bryce requires the students in
her English Club, whose members regularly attend plays and
visit museums, to undertake clothing drives and volunteer
Bryce has succeeded not only with students in her English
Advanced Placement classes but also with remedial students.
She has taught "Beowulf" to those having difficulty with
reading and helped them to understand the character's
struggles by comparing them to their own problems. "My real
joy as a teacher has come from making beauty visible to
those whose perceptions have been dimmed," Bryce wrote.
Bryce received her bachelor's degree from Trenton State
College and her master's degree from Georgian Court College.
She has taught at Lakewood High School since 1974 and won
the New Jersey Humanities Teacher of the Year award in
When chemistry teacher Anne McCormick learned no pep
rally was planned for the school's football team, which was
heading to the state playoffs, she threw one herself - in a
school hallway. In addition to streamers and balloons, the
pep rally had a steel drum painted with the opposing teams'
colors. McCormick imploded the steel drum to "Oohs" and
"Aahs," then explained to the students how the implosion had
worked, squeezing a quick science lesson into the
McCormick is a master at injecting fun into learning. "I
recall numerous lessons where Mrs. McCormick pretended she
was an atom or an electron," recalled Jessica Prince, who
has taken three of McCormick's chemistry classes. "She often
acts out events in order to keep the lesson fun and
Beneath the fun is a fervent commitment to her students.
McCormick arrives at school before 6 a.m. and holds review
sessions that have lasted until 9 p.m. She doesn't give up
on students who are struggling -- she works with them until
they understand the lesson. And she is there for students
when they need to talk about personal issues.
Her dedication goes beyond her classroom. When she
arrived at Jackson Memorial High School eight years ago, she
took the reins of the chemistry program, designing new
courses, modifying existing ones and training other
chemistry teachers in instruction techniques. And she
persuaded the district to upgrade the laboratory facilities
at the school.
"Never have I had a teacher who has cared so much about
her job and her students," said student Amanda Tricarico. "I
walk into her classroom waiting to hear what she is going to
McCormick graduated from The College of New Jersey. She
was named Teacher of the Year at Jackson Memorial High
School in 1997 and received the Superintendent's Superlative
Award in 2001.
When industrial arts teacher James Quinlan told a
classroom of students in a program for at-risk youth that he
wanted them to build a sailboat, the students thought he was
crazy. "He even admitted that he didn't know anything about
building a boat himself," said Cheryl Hastie, one of his
students. But that didn't seem to matter. "He came to class
wide-eyed and enthusiastic every day as if we were on the
verge of a great discovery. And we were."
Quinlan and his students spent three years designing,
planning and building the 19.5-foot plywood and fiberglass
sailboat. In the process, the students gained a real-world
appreciation not just for the challenges of woodworking, but
also for their geometry and trigonometry lessons.
"Calculating the square area of an oblique triangle was no
longer a meaningless workbook exercise," Quinlan said.
The students also researched the biology of marine
parasites to select the proper hull finish, learned a new
nautical vocabulary that included terms like "bowsprit" and
"jib sheet," and read aloud from "Moby Dick" to plunge
themselves into the culture of the sea. Once-reluctant
readers were riveted by the book. "We discovered that
learning isn't about memorizing facts or choosing the right
answer from a list," Hastie said. "It's about discovering
for yourself that what you know isn't as important as what
you can find out, if you're willing to make the effort."
Quinlan has been teaching that lesson to students at
Vernon Township High School for 26 years. He has taught
students about engineering with a 40-foot model of the
Eiffel Tower. He showed them how to make wood-and-fabric
kayaks that the students then used for a trip down the
Delaware River. He initiated a class in chair-making to
teach workplace skills to developmentally disabled
"In his characteristic quiet and unassuming way, he
represents the very best of what our American education
system has to offer," said colleague Douglas Castellana.
Quinlan received his bachelor's degree from Kean College
and his master's degree from Jersey City State College. Last
year he was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of