Waterford Awards The 2021 Educator Prizes

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Each year, Waterford Educator Prizes are awarded to acknowledge outstanding teaching and impact by Waterford faculty and staff. It is my great privilege to preside over this ceremony.

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. 

This year, when teachers and staff have endured and done so much while managing the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Waterford has named four deserving members of the faculty and staff to carry this honor.

2021 Educator Prize Winners
The 2021 Educator Prize Winners. From left to right, Erin Knight (PreK-4 Teacher), Andrew Patteson (Photography Teacher), Hillary Williams (PE Department Chair), Nancy Durrant (Lower School Office Manager).

 

1. Nancy Durrant

Nancy can do anything. Attendance, daily deposits, copier maintenance, supply ordering, volunteering at school auctions, folding the flag, conjuring up an ice bag for an injury, delivering school supplies during remote learning, finding a last-minute gift, fielding pleasant--and not so pleasant--phone calls, delivering lunches to students, ensuring masking when anyone steps into the Lower School, unwrapping a band aid in under .5 seconds... the list goes on and on. Nancy is artistic, and shares that talent generously.  Not only does she expertly decorate Lower School offices for holidays and seasons, she brings decorations to other offices on campus.  She can find a substitute teacher faster than you can blink. Her scheduling abilities are unsurpassed. She scoffs at a fully packed calendar, creating time for meetings out of thin air.  With laser-sharp accuracy, she can locate a student at any time of day, efficiently retrieving them for a waiting parent, and all with a smile.  It is a beautiful mystery.  And we don’t understand it.  

You know how cognitive scientists have discovered that we are, as a species, unable to multitask?  Well, they have never seen Nancy at work. Watching her handle action in the Lower School office is like watching the rain come down on a sunny day. It is truly difficult to comprehend all that can be happening at the same time, and her unflappable response to it.  How is it that she can calmly answer the phone, while holding the bloody nose of a second-grader, at the same time opening a drawer with her hip to get more Kleenex, buzz someone in through the front door—all with no change in facial expression? How is it possible? In the midst of chaos, she has that rare ability to make it look effortless.  We still don’t understand it.  

Nancy has worked for Waterford School for 27 years.  We all know that behind every good administrator is good administrative support, and Nancy has provided such support many times over.  She has worked closely alongside five…five Lower School Heads, all with different personalities, nuances, and needs. Her wicked sense of humor has gotten many of us through a hard day. Nancy has the magical ability to anticipate what is needed before we even ask.  We still don’t understand that either.  

Nancy is most often the first point of contact for the School. Whether you are visiting campus and are lost, a prospective family, or you have a question about how things work, where to look for something or someone, or how to get help, Nancy is your go-to.  She has memorized every phone extension, and the room numbers of every Lower School classroom. Nancy is kind to the core, and a trustworthy listener. Families know that she cares about them, and loves their children. Because so many confide in her, she has a deep understanding of Waterford’s school community.  She knows which parent is best to call when we need to reach them quickly. If a family is going through a difficult time, she knows it.  If a teacher is needing extra love, she knows that too. We don’t know how she does it, but she does.  

Nancy is the calm in the storm—and the calm before the storm. When we think of all that she does and what she manages on a daily basis, it is incomprehensible.  And we are so grateful for it.  Nancy, you are a wonder, a gem, and a calm for so many of us when we just need to just take a breath.  While we don’t understand how you do it all, we do understand that we are extraordinarily fortunate to have you in our Lower School, and part of Waterford. 

Nancy, thank you for all you do, and for being who you are.  

 

2. Erin Knight

Whether you have known Erin for two years, or twenty, you need only know her for a few minutes to understand that she is a rare gem. Whoever is standing in front of Erin becomes the most important person in her world.  She loves her family, and relishes opportunities to see the world with them.  Those who have known Erin throughout her time at Waterford have seen her fill just about every position imaginable: Class III teacher, playground monitor, and office assistant. However, Erin's heart and soul have always belonged to the PreK program. No one knows this more than her students.  If they’re not climbing onto her lap, they are holding her hand, tugging on her shirt, or calling her name. 

Miss Erin, as our students lovingly know her, is joyful, patient, encouraging, and, most importantly, passionate about ensuring that every child in her care knows their value. Every single day, the words, “I love you” are heard by her students. For our last two Halloween parades, Miss Erin has been Snow White, and she is appropriately surrounded by a cloud of adoring students who would follow her anywhere.  Miss Erin cannot walk down the halls of the Lower School without dozens of hands forming the “I love you” sign—hands of previous students who still remember and continue to feel her love long after their time in her classroom.  

As we have built upon our already strong PreK program, incorporating the Reggio Emilio philosophy of the emergent curriculum, Erin has, along with her colleagues, embraced this change with gusto.  If you step into her classroom, you can see the myriad of ways in which she and her co-teacher Jen have created an environment in which their students thrive.  Student words, portraits, and art adorn the walls.  There, students see their value, develop autonomy, follow their interests, and are appreciated for their unique contributions to the classroom community.  Erin strives to connect her students to the natural world, and is masterful at helping our youngest of students develop those very important executive functioning skills.  If you are a Middle or Upper school teacher, you may very well be teaching students who have been the beneficiaries of Erin’s kind and intentional teaching.  

Erin inspires her colleagues to be better, to live life with love, and to look for the good in every person and in any circumstance. With a twinkle in her eye, and a smile on her face, Erin engages with each person around her, whether a colleague, parent, or student.  While Erin is in her 29th year at Waterford, she has the energy and enthusiasm of a brand-new teacher. From holding a superhero yoga pose longer than anyone on the planet, sitting on “tunnel hill'' reading books to her students, to spending hours crafting a single progress report, Erin never seems to tire.  She possesses the unique ability to recycle items that are no longer needed, taking on the PreK shed every year.  She calls herself a creature of habit, but what her colleagues have witnessed in the past two challenging years is anything but. Erin exemplifies a teacher who is open, willing, and able to wear a variety of hats.  Erin’s adaptability has been invaluable, and a wonderful example to those around her.  

Our students' minds and hearts are shaped by a foundation built in early childhood.  Erin is a true architect of this foundation. She has always been, and continues to be, an asset to Waterford in every sense of the word—she is valuable, she is talented, she is resourceful, and she is a gift to our community.  
 

3. Hillary Williams

Hillary came to Waterford in the fall of 2011, after completing her credentials in Athletic Training and Physical Education at the University of Utah. She joined the Waterford PE and Athletics team, and immediately impressed her colleagues with her knowledge, work ethic, and willingness to take on whatever responsibilities the department needed to make the program successful— from teaching Middle School Fitness and Class VI PE to Upper School aerobics and weight training. Alongside  teaching, she embraced the role of Athletic Trainer for the entire lineup of Waterford sports teams, essentially working two jobs through stretches of the year—teaching all day, and then working with the sports teams in the after school and evening hours, including travel to the far corners of the state in support of our student athletes. In every program area she touched, Hillary has brought a professionalizing influence, improving and organizing existing systems, and when needed, developing new systems for tracking and documenting student-athlete injuries, training procedures, and course curricula. She developed emergency plans for when things go wrong, and she took on the important challenge of researching, defining, and managing state-of-the science… concussion protocols for all of our student athletes. She helped the entire school become more enlightened about how to help students with concussions, receive the accommodations they need, and to ease back into full activity within both the academic and athletic programs. 

In light of Hillary’s tremendous competence and capacity for connection with students, Waterford asked her to serve as a Class Dean for a number of years, on top of all the other responsibilities she was carrying. She excelled in that role, just as in everything she does, combining professional clarity with genuine kindness to help shape the characters of the young people under her care. She is warm and welcoming with students, but also commanding and demanding in the best sense. She has the rare and wonderful ability to push kids without alienating them. She asks students to stretch past their comfort level as they pursue personal fitness goals and athletic improvement -- or just better ways of being in the world -- and they willingly respond because they trust, admire, and love her. Despite the Waterford culture of addressing teachers with honorific titles, the students persist in calling Hillary “Hillary,” which for them is a term of highest respect. As a teacher, coach, trainer, or Dean, Hillary is a powerful presence in the lives of Waterford students, someone they know will challenge them to be their best selves, but will also always have their back when those challenges get hard, when they suffer injury, or when they just slip up in the ways adolescents often do. Without doubt, Hillary is one of the rocks in the lives of Waterford students -- a presence, a foundation. They can’t imagine the school without her.

This past year, Hillary again accepted a new responsibility, stepping into the role of PE Department Chair. In just a few months, she has already made her presence felt, as she works in her gentle but unwavering way to share her tremendous reservoir of knowledge with colleagues and collectively lift the department programs to still higher levels of performance. She is patient, clear, loving and wise… leading by example and, just like with her students, holding colleagues, in her care, to high standards. 

We are deeply grateful to Hillary for her wide ranging influence. Our association with her continues to make us better, both as professional educators… and as human beings.

Thank you, Hillary, for your many contributions to Waterford!

 

4. Andrew Patteson  

Andrew arrived at Waterford in 2007 and has been a beloved “artist-teacher” from the start!

Waterford arts thrive because our art teachers are not only experts in their given art form… but expert practitioners of the art form as well. We want Waterford art teachers to be… artists and Andrew Patteston is an amazingly talented artist teacher! He makes beautiful photographs - his photographic art was chosen to be part of the 2019 DEMarcation Portfolio representing the best 20 contemporary photographers in Utah. This portfolio of prints has received national recognition and has been exhibited at all Utah’s major Museums - and this artist-expertise positively impacts his ability to teach photography.  It means that his students trust him to go deeper because he understands the vulnerability it takes to create a piece of art.  He is adored by students and colleagues alike for his deep commitment to the arts and his open, welcoming persona.  Andrew is exacting… and kind, and invites all of us into the arts in ways that make us feel that we are part of something truly special!  

The trust he engenders in his students allows for the kinds of risk-taking…the kind of stretching to which we aspire in all disciplines. Andrew approaches teaching with a quiet, friendly, knowing demeanor. His students are committed to him and he is a much-loved teacher on this campus. With his wise and gentle style, he creates meaningful connections with his students. They want to do excellent work in his classes, and they truly value his feedback. He has been instrumental in the 100’s of students' Scholastic photographic awards over the past ten years.

It is common to hear visiting alums say they want to see Mr. Patteson. Whether they are practicing photographers or not, so many graduates talk so affectionately about the impact that Andrew has had on their creativity…and the way they see the world.   

Outside of the classroom, Andrew is a student-centric educator who makes time to connect with students to support them in their full engagement at Waterford.  He is an active listener, and a keen observer…always fully present…and has a gift for helping students…or a colleague.. to find their answer through patient and thoughtful guidance. 

And while Andrew is an extraordinary teacher.. he is also a talented leader. Andrew’s quiet, authentic, understated, selfless style draws others in… as they know he truly cares…to hear their voice and how they are doing… as we work to ensure that the arts remain essential to the pursuit of our mission.  Andrew has worn…and continues to wear… different hats over the years. He served as Waterford’s communications person/Director? for several years and  has been an effective class dean, and currently photographs campus life and events… Currently he is doing an excellent job leading the Visual Arts Department where he listens for understanding and, while understated, passionately advocates for the arts… and the members of his department. 

Andrew is a loving father to his young son, Walker. He is an avid ultimate frisbee player and now… pickleball aficionado! 

Andrew genuinely loves and cares about Waterford. He wants to be in the fray, helping to make it a better place for everyone. His students matter to him. His colleagues matter to him. The mission of the school matters to him.

Andrew, we so appreciate your energy…it draws us in and we are better for it.  You are a model for all of us as you balance excellence…rigor…and support…expressions and actions of care… in ways that nurture confidence and growth in every student fortunate to work with you. You are a calming force amidst chaos, always positive, always complimentary, always authentically…genuinely… making time for others. You teach with intention,  empathy and integrity as you so generously share your passion for photography… and education, not just with you students, but with all of us…and the border community. 

Andrew, congratulations and thank you.

 

Congratulations to these four talented colleagues!