Skip to main content

You are here

Waterford Educator Prize 2016

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Waterford Educator Prize was created in 1995 to honor members of the Faculty for the quality of their teaching and for their professional contributions to their colleagues and the School. Faculty and Staff submit nominations in the Fall, and the winners are announced in December. Each receives a monetary gift toward the pursuit of an interest or a dream that is important to that individual. The winners are asked to speak at the April All Schools Faculty Meeting, reflecting on their teaching — how they came to it, how they keep it vital, and insights they have acquired along the way.

Congratulations to the 2015 winners, named below. We have included for each a snippet from the tribute by Head of School Andrew Menke.

Educator Prize recipients.
Educator Prize recipients (L to R): Nancy Nebker, Tim Pettus, Andy Henrikson.

Nancy Nebeker

Nancy started full-time at Waterford in 2008. A graduate of the Spence School in New York City, where some of the Waterford ethos was first formed, Nancy followed a path filled with many twists and turns, involving a BA in Political Science from BYU, an MA in Communication from American University, a Master’s in Library Media Education from Minnesota State, marriage, family, and living abroad, before ultimately, and somewhat unexpectedly, circling back to Utah, where she began a long association with the Waterford School, first as a parent of Waterford students, and then as librarian, Class XII Dean, Community Service Director, Summer Term trip leader, and, finally, starting five years ago, as Middle School Dean.

Waterford has had Middle School Deans before Nancy, of course, but no one has ever been as effective as Nancy at developing a vision for all that the Middle School years at Waterford can and should contribute to the journey of a Waterford graduate. Rejecting the notion that the middle school years are at best a Seussian “waiting place,” where students look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead, but aren’t really ready just yet to do anything meaningful in the present moment, Nancy has made the Waterford Middle School a place where students learn how to act -- how to reach out beyond themselves with gestures of kindness toward an ideal of community.

As an administrator, Nancy is both passionate and wise, enthusiastic and measured. She believes in every child’s capacity to learn and grow. She understands that Middle School students make mistakes; they fall down; they go through periods of not being nice, of not living up to the ideals that their parents and teachers might have of them. But she also understands that it is through those trials that students learn best, and that the most meaningful growth will happen. Perhaps Nancy’s greatest gift is her capacity for optimism. She always looks for ways to say yes, and she encourages students to say yes as well -- yes to the challenge of learning, yes to the possibility of social growth, yes to the many joys that are there for the claiming everywhere and always within the Middle School years. 

Tim Pettus

Tim arrived at Waterford in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree from Springfield College, a Master’s degree in Physical Education from Winthrop University, a few years of full-time experience in the public system in Oregon, a deep passion for teaching kids, and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of creativity to draw upon in developing curriculum. Tim teaches every student in the Lower School. Merely mortal teachers will start to break down with student counts above 80, but the godlike Mr. Pettus thrives teaching well over 300 hundred. To see Tim holding sway in the West Gym, calling instructions through his microphone headgear, guiding a swarming class of elementary-aged athletes through the intricacies of a Pettus-original skill-building game, is to witness a truly impressive feat of engineering, something akin to watching the smooth operation of the locks and water lifts of the Panama Canal.

Tim is passionate and eloquent in speaking about the benefits of physical play. In addition to the obvious value to bodily health and fitness, physical education as Tim conceives it is a pathway to emotional maturity, social intelligence, and intellectual challenge. Tim designs games and activities that allow students to escape from the trap of the typical PE class, where the most able students thrive and the least able feel embarrassed. His games allow low-skill students an easy and fun point of entry, with lots of chances for both individual and group practice, while also allowing the high-skill students the opportunity to face increasing levels of challenge without the risk of boredom. It’s a tricky balance, but one that Tim pulls off regularly. His work provides a model of differentiated instruction that all of us should strive to follow.

Tim is by nature a team player, always ready to pitch in to do the little and big things needed to make the entire enterprise of education at Waterford work smoothly and effectively. At the heart of everything Tim does is the practice of critical self-reflection. Tim is always analyzing his practice, noting what worked or didn’t work, and thinking about ways to refine, or when necessary, to reinvent. 

Andrew Henrikson

Andy’s first job at Waterford was a part-time assignment in 1999 to work on Curriculum Development. He started as a full-time science teacher the following year, bringing a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Skidmore College, a Master’s degree in Thermal Geophysics from the University of Utah, and a host of other, still more esoteric credentials and life experiences, including training as a Graduate Jeweler Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America, and, of course, a deep passion for rowing that began with his undergraduate experience as a varsity member of the Skidmore Crew.

Once here full-time at Waterford, Andy wasted no time in making his mark. He established himself in the classroom as an excellent teacher in one of the most demanding disciplines of the Waterford curriculum. Physics is the true foundational science, the nuts and bolts -- or rather the atoms and quarks --  of everything, and Andy has become adept at opening this world to Waterford students. He commands the classroom with a powerful voice and a compelling presentation style. Fully capable of lecturing with clarity and purpose, he uses that skill judiciously, preferring whenever possible to engage students in more hands-on learning activities. Andy has always been a leader within the department in the use of technology to illuminate the mysteries of science. Andy believes in challenging his students, asking them to face hard tasks, and then helping them to realize that they have it within them to succeed.

Beyond the science classroom, Andy has been one of Waterford’s true entrepreneurs -- someone who has started a program from scratch, and through a mix of willpower, creativity, and witchcraft managed to transform it over the years into a thriving enterprise within the larger Waterford world, and a powerful inspiration for many students. The unlikely presence of crew as a competitive sport at Waterford, and increasingly at other schools in the Salt Lake area, is a testament to Andy’s special powers. His vision and energy have been the constant factors in the rise of crew over 15 years. In Andy’s view of the physical universe creatio ex nihelo just requires time and perseverance.