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2017 Singer Family Awards recognize four extraordinary high school teachers

June 29, 2017
photo of four students with four teachersUniversity of Rochester Singer Family Award winners (from left to right- first row): Lisa Ricci, Thomas R. Proctor High School, Utica NY; Marvin Gordon Hall, Campion College High School, Kingston Jamaica; Deborah Morand, Fitchburg High School, Fitchburg MA; Jesse Warren, Pomona High School, Arvada CO. (from left to right- second row- all class of 2017): Nicholas Contento, Mark Auden, Brian O'Neil, Shelby Corning; pictured in Morey Hall May 20, 2017. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The Singer Family Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching honors high school teachers who have made a lasting impact on the personal and academic growth of their students. The recipients of this year’s award are Marvin Gordon Hall, from Campion College High School in Kingston, Jamaica; Deborah Morand, from Fitchburg High School in Fitchburg, Massachusetts; Lisa Ricci, from Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica, New York; and Jesse Warren, from Pomona High School in Arvada, Colorado.

Each year, seniors in the College are invited to nominate a high school teacher for the prize. The award recipients are invited to Rochester to be recognized at the University’s Commencement ceremony. In addition to accepting this honor, this year’s award winners received $3,000 and a plaque, $2,500 for their school, and coverage of all travel expenses.

“The Paul Singer Family Foundation feels strongly that while devoted secondary school teachers play a vital role in the intellectual development of American society, they often receive little recognition or acclaim for their endeavors,” said Gordon Singer, son of Paul Singer ‘66, who funds the prize.

Marvin Gordon Hall, Mathematics and Robotics, Campion College High School
Nominated by Mark Auden ’17

Auden, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in physics, says that Hall “actively got me excited about the field of mathematics.”

“He listened to some of the many ideas I used to come up with. But rather than pass them over as the wishful thinking of an adolescent, he gave me a copy of Dan Kennedy’s How to Make Millions with Your Ideas,” says Auden, who participated in the University’s Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year program.

Auden notes that Hall has taken a hands-on approach in his many years as an educator and public speaker, and as the founder of an organization, Halls of Learning, dedicated to empowering the lives of people through education, no matter their background.
Deborah Morand, English teacher and Student Council Advisor, Fitchburg High School
Nominated by Brian O’Neil ’17

Although O’Neil, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, was originally more interested in STEM subjects, Morand was able to open up an entirely new world to him. “Mrs. Morand’s passion, her obvious and deep caring for her students, her generosity, resulted in a love of literature that hasn’t left me since,” he says. “She listened, she advised, and she treated me not as a subordinate, but as an equal, giving me the freedom to learn and grow without fear or embarrassment.”

Describing Morand’s teaching style as collaborative, O’Neil also notes that she “agreed to guide the debate club I founded, and what would have been one semester of reading and writing became four years of mentorship and trust.”


Lisa Ricci, Italian teacher, Thomas R. Proctor High School
Nominated by Nicholas Contento ’17

Contento, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, says that Ricci taught him more than just the language of Italian. “We learned to view Italian culture as a discourse, a contextualized exchange of words and ideas that varied by region,” he says. “We explored the structure of Italian government and politics, while asking critical questions.”

Characterizing Ricci’s teaching style as innovative and thought-provoking, Contento emphasizes Ricci’s impact on his University experience, as well as on his personal growth.

“I can state with confidence that Lisa’s classes have set me on a life course filled with critical inquiry, and most importantly, understanding the value and salience of cultural differences,” he says.

Jesse Warren, English teacher, Pomona High School
Nominated by Shelby Corning ’17

Corning, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences with a minor in linguistics, credits Warren with fostering intellectual debate, personal growth, and passion in his classroom. “He galvanized and inspired students to see their studies as more than just busywork,” she says.

Because of Warren’s challenging, innovative assignments, as well as his guidance, Corning says that she “again saw school for what it could be: a platform for change, a stepping-stone to an endless expanse of opportunity.”

Corning also emphasized the impact Warren made on her academic career by inspiring her to revive and pursue her interests in conservation, writing, and the outdoors. “Without him, I may not be where I am today, poised to graduate into the field of environmental science and prepared to change our planet one word, one person, one community at a time.”

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Category: Campus Life