University of Rochester

New Award Honors Inspirational Teachers, Secondary Education

May 15, 2007

All students remember that special teacher who took extra time in and after class, the one who made learning come to life but also cared about life outside of the classroom.

Four high school teachers from as close as Aquinas Institute to the distant Nathan Hale High in Tulsa, Okla., were chosen to receive The Singer Family Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching, a new award at the University of Rochester that recognizes influential high school teachers.

For Salvatore Amato, a graduating senior at the University, Michael Haugh was an ideal candidate for the teaching award. He helped Amato grasp the importance of family, contributing to the greater good of society, and self sacrifice.

"Mr. Haugh was the best high school teacher I had in four years at Aquinas. I'm going to graduate school because he inspired me to follow my dream. He was a hero, like those in the English texts he used to teach us real life," remembered Amato.

The new award, funded by Paul Singer, Class of 1966, was quickly embraced by students in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. About 30 seniors sent in a nomination, which was reviewed by a committee, and winnowed to a list of four winners.

Haugh from Aquinas Institute in Rochester, Elizabeth O'Hara from Westhill High in Syracuse, Jason Byrd from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, and John McLaughlin from Souderton Area High School in Souderton, Pa., were all very deserving, said Richard Feldman, Dean of the College.

"The humility they expressed in their letters was very touching," Feldman said. "They were honored by the personal recognition, but even more enthusiastic about the appreciation for secondary school educators."

Byrd, one of the most requested calculus teachers at Nathan Hale, is able to reach his students despite being surrounded by a community struggling with poverty-related challenges, said Principal Chris H. Johnson, in a letter of recommendation.

Haugh, an English teacher with 39 years of experience, is known as a teacher who teaches life through faith, using various educational strategies to achieve his goal. Haugh will be retiring from Aquinas this year.

McLaughlin, an English teacher known for his unique and adventurous teaching approaches, lives by the lesson that all people must be critical learners, open to new ideas but skeptical of everything.

O'Hara, a French teacher with 35 years of teaching experience, uses layers of technology in the classroom as a way to motivate and capture students' attention. O'Hara is a University of Rochester alumna from the Class of 1972.

These winning teachers are invited to Rochester, where they will be honored at a newly instituted awards ceremony to be held during Commencement weekend at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19, in Hoyt Hall on the University's River Campus. Each winner will travel here as guests of the College and receive a $3,000 award. The school of each winning teacher will receive a $2,500 award.