2018-19 Waterford Educator Prizes
Each year, two or three Waterford Educator Prizes are awarded to acknowledge outstanding teaching by Waterford faculty. In addition to the honor given for their exemplary service, each award carries a stipend to further the educator’s formal education, research, writing, travel, or related scholarly activities. The stipends are awarded by the Head of School based on the written recommendations of faculty peers and other colleagues. The recipients are selected based on their experience at Waterford, passion for learning, and influence on students and colleagues.
"I consider teaching to be the most noble endeavor we are called to pursue. It is the means by which the world is shaped and humankind inspired to progress to evolve and to be more human, and as our founding philosophy, asserts it is the tool that underpins the aspirational pursuit of this well-lived life." - Andrew Menke
This year, we are proud to announce the following recipients of Waterford Educator Prize:
Marica found her way to Waterford in 1998, after she and her husband, Mehmed, left Bosnia in search of a more peaceful and stable environment in which to raise a family. For more than 20 years now, working quietly behind the scenes, Marica has helped create that environment right here at Waterford. Long before the school formally declared caring to be a core value, Marica embraced it as her fundamental personal commitment. Always present, even-keeled and ever-ready, she works tirelessly to nurture and sustain the Waterford mission, because she cares so deeply about its people—students, staff, and faculty.
In everything Marica does—setting up thousands of folding chairs, arranging countless dinner and refreshment tables, cleaning and painting learning spaces, cultivating and harvesting the Lee Bromley Community garden, preparing delicious food, greeting the youngest students at drop-off every morning, decorating the foyers and concert hall with symbols of the season, and so many other things—she brings love and artistry. She attends to every detail, never settling for good enough, striving always to achieve the elevated standards she has adopted for herself.
As much as any educator in our midst, Marica understands the vision of the school...our shared quest to realize lives of meaning and purpose through sustained learning in the liberal arts tradition. In her character, in the way she performs her labor, in the way she creates honor, beauty, and wisdom, Marica testifies to the human capacity for transcendence. She herself has overcome, and every day at Waterford, she works to sure-up the foundations of order and stability the school depends on, and that she so highly values. She works to create the artful and caring environment in which those moments of transcendence that the liberal arts tradition promises, are able, sometimes, miraculously to happen.
For over 20 years now, Marica has enriched the lives of all of us in the Waterford community. We feel enormously fortunate, and endlessly grateful, that she was able to find her way to us all those many years ago.
Finding her way from Belgium to Utah, while earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in secondary education, history, language instruction, and Latin, Heidi joined Waterford in the fall of 2011. Hired to direct and teach within Waterford’s new Middle School Latin program, which had just started in the previous year, Heidi made an immediate and profound impact. Heidi accepted the challenge of developing a true program from what initially was just a researched concept, bolstered by hope and faith, that Waterford could best achieve its liberal arts aspirations for students by having all of them acquire a strong foundation in Latin through the Middle School years. Under Heidi’s creative leadership, a robust three-level Latin curriculum emerged, grounded in a commitment to the culture and mythology of the ancient world.
As a teacher, Heidi is a master of the artfully choreographed lesson plan. She seems able to guide students strategically through multiple activities—some pursued as a whole group, using projected media or playful teacher drawings on the whiteboard; some requiring practice in spoken Latin; and some pursued individually or in small teams. With seeming effortlessness, Heidi manages the transitions like a magician, getting students to move without resistance from one activity to the next, allowing every minute to be used to maximum effect. Of course, there is no magic, just skill and careful preparation, starting with program level curriculum planning, and moving to individual course design, and on through specific lessons. Heidi cultivates strong collaborative relationships with the other Latin teachers, and with colleagues from other departments. She and the Latin team have met every week since the program started to work on refinements to the overarching program plan, and to share ideas for individual units. It’s a model of productive collaboration that influences others across campus.
Given Heidi’s rare talents as both a teacher and a collaborative facilitator, she was a natural choice to lead Waterford new faculty mentorship program in the Middle and Upper Schools, a role she has fulfilled admirably over the past five years, expanding and improving the program with each iteration. Through everything Heidi does runs a deep love for the liberal arts tradition, and a deep commitment to the personal value of ongoing learning. Heidi embodies the Waterford core values. She comes to work each day, grounded in professionalism and positivity, seemingly always expecting to be inspired... and as a result offering inspiration to us all. We are lucky and grateful to be able to claim her as a colleague.
Kristi Watabe knows Waterford, both as a student and educator. Kristi initially joined Waterford in the 90s for four years... then returned to the faculty in 2013, and has taught science in Waterford’s Lower School ever since. In addition to serving as a past teacher-leader of Lower School Community Service, Kristi has also coached the Lower School robotics program. A natural scientist herself, Kristi’s spirit is imbued with our core values of caring, excellence and curiosity.
When asked “How are your classes, and how are your students this year?” Kristi answers: “I adore all of my students.” And, spoken like a true scientist, she will tell you that she wishes she “could freeze them in place, and keep this batch forever.” Musing about Senett’s book, Together, Kristi shares that she was struck by the notion of what it truly means to listen to her students, to connect with them. And connect she does. As soon as her students arrive in her Science classroom, they know it’s going to be an amazing day, an amazing week, an amazing year. She is deeply committed to the success of her students, and has a way of making them feel unconditionally valued for their contributions. She is quick to notice the small successes, and to innately build upon them. Kristi truly understands the meaning of the “whole child” and her students know it.
Kristi’s lessons are well-choreographed and researched, weaving in the right amount of relevant information, cutting edge research, and hands-on activities. The number of labs she is able to coordinate in a term is a logistical wonder. Whether botany, astronomy, heredity, or plate tectonics, by creating a positive and engaging learning environment, and harnessing the natural curiosity of her students, Kristi cultivates a community of enthusiastic learners who will become scientists by the time they leave her class. Every... single... one of them!
Kristi is an illustration of lifelong learning, who knows that even the most experienced of teachers can always modify and improve. She is passionate about her subject area and her enthusiasm is contagious. Kristi spends hours in the summer reading about ways in which to be a more effective teacher. As a colleague, Kristi herself would say that “one is a very small number for greatness.” She understands what it means to learn from her peers, and values getting outside of her classroom to observe and engage in dialogue about the art and craft of teaching.
Ever the scientist, Kristi quietly goes about her work, testing hypotheses about what makes her students thrive, striving to understand the unseen forces of the human spirit, and acting on her curiosity by learning more about those around her--the very embodiment of empathy. Whether a parent, student, or colleague, we all benefit greatly from Kristi’s impact on Waterford, and we are grateful for her.
It is clear that in every dimension of the student experience, each of the recipients of the Educator Prize works to know, need and care for their students. Congratulations and thank you for the passion, inspiration and hard work.