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For immediate release: May 26, 2004
Media contact: Eric Quiñones, (609) 258-5748, quinones@princeton.edu

Princeton honors outstanding secondary school teachers

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Princeton University will honor four outstanding New Jersey secondary school teachers at its 2004 Commencement on Tuesday, June 1.

This year's honorees are: Barbara Carr of Round Valley Middle School, Lebanon; Kathryn DeSantis of Lenape High School, Medford; Maurice Grillon III of Lacey Township High School, Lanoka Harbor; and Anthony Nardino of Wall High School, Wall.

"More than 80 excellent teachers from public and private schools across New Jersey were nominated for this award, each recommended by their supervisors, fellow teachers and students. The extraordinary achievements of this year's winners are shining examples of the tremendous quality of teaching in New Jersey," said John Webb, director of Princeton’s Program in Teacher Preparation, which administers the awards.

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

The staff of the Program in Teacher Preparation selected 11 finalists, each of whom was visited at work by an observer. Finalists were selected by a committee chaired by Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel and including Webb, two Princeton professors and two external education professionals.

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:

Barbara Carr

Barbara Carr is celebrated by students and colleagues at Round Valley Middle School in Lebanon, where she has taught language arts since 1994, for her devotion to improving the school's curriculum and developing a safe, creative learning environment.

Carr has helped lead efforts to create an integrated language arts and social studies program at Round Valley and to implement innovative teaching strategies such as "learning stations" with activities differentiated by students' readiness level, learning style and interest.

"I believe in designing student-centered lessons that empower both the teacher and the students, recognize the unique needs of the individual, and give him or her more voice and choice in the classroom," Carr said.

Her contributions have led to steady improvement in Round Valley students' performance in literacy assessment tests. Just three years after arriving at Round Valley, Carr won the school's teacher of the year award.

"Because Barbara is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of early adolescents, she goes out of her way to ensure that her classroom is a place of comfort and connections," said Diane Tait, Round Valley's principal. "The students are drawn to her low-key, open approach; they appreciate her passion for literature and writing, her use of personal anecdotes, her sense of humor, and her enthusiasm and willingness to 'let her hair down.'"

Carr has employed creative teaching techniques in a range of subjects, from vocabulary and grammar to the Holocaust and the Civil War. Last summer, seeking methods to get her eight-graders more interested in "Romeo and Juliet," Carr participated in "ShakeFest," a program conducted by the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre to help educators learn performance-oriented teaching techniques. After two weeks of hands-on theater production work, Carr returned to Round Valley and shared ideas with her fellow teachers about how to bring Shakespeare to life for their students.

"Our teaching will be augmented because of her out-of-school pursuits, and our program will continue to grow because of her inquiry and enthusiasm," said Suzanne Gitomer, an eighth-grade language arts teacher.

Former student Danielle Hanafin said Carr's dedication to each student "became the gold standard by which I measured all of my teachers throughout my high school career."

Among many school activities, Carr has served as coach for Round Valley's girls' volleyball and softball teams. She earned bachelor's degrees in English and communications from Rutgers University and a master's degree in teaching from Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey).

Kathryn DeSantis

To expose her students to the thrill of scientific discovery, Kathryn DeSantis, a biology and genetics teacher at Lenape High School in Medford, stages a murder mystery in her lab.

DeSantis gives the students evidence bags and printed narratives describing a fictional crime, which they must solve using only their microscopes. This dramatic assignment is intended to enhance students' skills in experimental procedures and critical thinking, and it is just one of many ways that DeSantis gets young minds energized about science and education.

"Her contagious enthusiasm for her subject and its social implications is exciting for her students, and many of them go on in biology and genetics because of her influence," said Victoria Robertson, the science department coordinator at Lenape, where DeSantis has taught since 1990.

Jason Turetsky, a former Lenape student who is now a freshman at Princeton, said, "Mrs. DeSantis' ability to couple exciting lab work with her consistently intriguing lectures allowed us to achieve a profound understanding of genetics. There is no other class where I commenced my journey knowing so little about a topic and left retaining so much new information."

DeSantis regularly brings her students to lectures given by leading scientists, as well as to museums and laboratories, to augment their work in the classroom. At the same time, she has pursued a number of activities to expand her own knowledge in the field, including attending a summer program in 2000 at Princeton for high school molecular biology teachers. Last year she was a member of the Princeton molecular biology department's "Gene Team," a group of high school teachers who worked with University researchers and graduate students to apply new research to high school curricula.

After eight years in the banking and computer industries, DeSantis turned to teaching to follow her passion for biology and find a more fulfilling career. Teaching allows her to "provide students with opportunities to make the connections between classroom academics and real experience, leading them toward intrinsic motivation to learn, and to help each student become a good citizen and a responsible and contributing member of society," she said.

DeSantis received a bachelor's degree in biology from Rutgers University and a master's degree in natural health from Clayton College of Natural Health, where she is currently pursuing a Ph.D.

Maurice Grillon III

When Maurice Grillon III joined the faculty at Lacey Township High School in Lanoka Harbor as its sole German teacher, the program had just 13 students. Grillon initially spent part of his day at the high school and the rest teaching French, Spanish, Japanese and Latin to elementary school students.

This year, 210 students took German at Lacey Township, and the school hired another full-time German teacher to help handle the workload.

"This increase in enrollment over the past five years has been due solely to Mr. Grillon's enthusiasm, expertise and commitment," said Barbara Hartnett, chair of the English and world languages department.

"Witnessing such growth, hearing parents praise the program, and seeing how proud the students are to be studying German validates my choice to become an educator," Grillon said.

Although he is known as a demanding, detail-oriented teacher, Grillon has drawn increasing numbers of students to the German program on the strength of his reputation for providing individual attention and guidance in and out of the classroom.

Grillon's own pursuit of knowledge of other nations and cultures -- he has lived and traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa -- has served as an example to his students. In addition to his German duties, Grillon often gives guest lectures in English courses and volunteered to teach Latin when the school lost its regular Latin instructor in the middle of the school year. After school, he can be found teaching Italian and Hindi to some of his German students who volunteer for the extra coursework.

Grillon also founded the school's German Club, created an independent study curriculum in French and supervises the International Club.

"He has demonstrated that the acquisition of language, and not only the German language, can be a lifelong pursuit," said former student Jacquelyn Burke.

"He explains to [students] that studying a second language can open many doors of opportunity domestically and abroad, particularly in an increasingly smaller and post-modern world," said Loren Heuschkel, an English teacher at Lacey Township.

Grillon earned a bachelor's degree in German from Georgetown University, with a minor in world religions, and a master's degree in Indian religion from the University of London.

Anthony Nardino

In class, Latin teacher Anthony Nardino often sits among his students rather than at the front of the room, reinforcing the notion that everyone in the room is equal.

A member of the faculty at Wall High School since 1992, Nardino has overseen a dramatic expansion of the school's Latin program. He has developed junior- and senior-level honors Latin classes, as well as the school district's first in-class support program for special-needs students in world languages.

According to Nardino, student assessments should "discover not whether a student is smart, but how a student is smart."

"In Mr. Nardino's classes, every child can be successful. He is a master at assessing each student's learning style and then differentiating the instruction to meet each child's needs," said Billie Imperato, who supervises the world languages, English and fine arts departments.

Nardino's open approach has made him a highly sought-after teacher, said Spanish teacher Lucy Klinek. "The number of Latin students has increased from five average-sized classes to 12 large ones. The students are not necessarily yearning to study the language, but they are eager to have the opportunity to study with Nardino," she said.

"He has no special tools or gimmicks in the classroom," Klinek added. "His command of his subject is obvious; his love for his craft and his pupils is palpable."

Nardino's students have consistently earned recognition for their success in the National Latin Exam. He also leads a number of extracurricular activities to enhance his students' understanding of Latin, including a competition called Certamen in which students from Wall test their knowledge of Latin and Roman culture against students from other schools. In addition, he serves as head coach of both the boys' and girls' tennis teams.

Charles Witte Jr., a graduate of Wall High School, said he remained in touch with Nardino while in college, where he intended to major in chemistry. But Witte continued to take courses in Latin and in Roman history and culture, and, through discussions with Nardino, realized that he wanted to follow in his former teacher's footsteps.

Now a Latin teacher at Allentown (N.J.) High School, Witte said, "I am doing something I love, and Anthony Nardino is a big reason I am where I am today. I feel privileged that I can now call Mr. Nardino a colleague, but at the same time I am still his student."

Nardino received a bachelor's degree from Seton Hall University and a master's degree in administration from the University of Notre Dame.

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