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Four high school teachers receive Singer Family Prize

May 15, 2020
four portraits of teachers.From left, Sarah English, Jo-Ann Smith, Alexis Langheier, and Steve Cardoso, winners of this year’s Singer Family Prize for high school teachers, nominated by members of each year’s graduating class.

Four high school teachers who greatly influenced members of the Class of 2020 are this year’s recipients of the University’s Singer Family Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching .

A Rochester springtime tradition in its 14th year, the Singer Family Prize offers graduating seniors a chance to look back and honor the high school teachers who made a difference in their lives. Recipients of the award receive $3,000, a plaque, and $2,500 for their school.

Paul Singer ’66, ’17 (Honorary) and his son, Gordon Singer, support the prize through The Paul Singer Family Foundation.

Here are this year’s recipients, in the words of the students who nominated them:

Alexis Langheier.Alexis Langheier, a business teacher at Williamsville South High in Williamsville, New York

Nominated by Hannah Duttweiler (psychology major)

“From the moment you walked into Ms. Langheier’s classroom, you could tell she was different. With music playing and laughter ringing, making a connection with her students was the priority over any grade or evaluation. She worked endlessly for her students, staying far past working hours, supervising clubs and any event that could possibly benefit them. She filled her schedule with extra courses she wasn’t required to teach to provide more resources for students.

“Her classroom was a respite from the stress of school, sports, and extracurriculars. With a hidden chair for naps and hot water ready for tea, it was a go-to location for study halls. Ms. Langheier became my mentor, and it was through her that I found the University of Rochester. She encouraged me when I failed and celebrated with me in my successes.”

Jo-Ann Smith.Jo-Ann Smith, a Spanish teacher at Johnstown High in Johnstown, New York

Nominated by Jonathan Bearden (microbiology and Spanish double major)

“Mrs. Smith, or, as we called her, La Señora Smith, has played a pivotal role in my path as a student at Rochester. She has been a driving force in my community to engage students in learning language and experiencing different cultures outside of their own. When the French program was cut from our school, Sra. Smith decided to teach the French students through their senior years, even though she had never taught French before.

“I was not very engaged with learning Spanish, and it became the worst grade on my report card in ninth grade. But when I met Sra. Smith in 10th grade, her infectious personality and passion for the subject ignited a similar passion in me. I graduated at the top of my class, earning the Spanish department medal at graduation. I majored in Spanish (and microbiology) at Rochester and studied abroad in Ecuador. In the future, I hope to practice rural medicine, using the Spanish that I have learned to advocate for migrant farmworkers.”

Steve Cardoso.Stephen Cardoso, an electronics technology teacher from William M. Davies, Jr. Career & Technical High School in Lincoln, Rhode Island

Nominated by Tania Cano (electrical and computer engineering major)

“When I arrived at my high school, I thought I already had my future planned out. I would choose the Health Careers program, graduate high school, and apply to Tufts University for its veterinary program. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In Mr. Cardoso’s class, I was one of only four female students out of a class of about 30. Women in engineering, especially Hispanic women, are among the least represented in engineering. Yet I never once felt like I didn’t belong in an engineering field because of my gender and ethnicity. Mr. Cardoso encouraged us to pursue engineering and four-year colleges and to join the robotics club that he ran. This club actually helped me receive a scholarship, and I’m almost positive that without it I probably would not have been able to attend this University. I don’t think I have ever expressed my gratitude, but I am thankful to have had him as a teacher.

Sarah English.Sarah English ’95, a chemistry teacher at Sweet Home High School in Amherst, New York

Nominated by Ryan Hayter (chemical engineering major)

“Some educators have ‘it,’ an ability to bring classroom material to life and engage their students’ attention. Dr. English provided a spark in our chemistry classroom that I never expected to experience. She had just implemented the ‘flipped classroom,’ where rather than standing at the board and lecturing, she would record a video of herself taking and writing notes done on Notability media. Then these videos could be viewed on the student’s district provided iPad. This technique allowed every student to learn the material at their own pace. This proved crucial for me. Our in-class experiences with Dr. English were then dedicated to hands-on work as well as group laboratory experiments. She has a true passion for chemistry education and exudes such a command of the subject matter. She presents it in such a way that students want to continue learning. She had a major influence on my decision to attend Rochester, as she completed her undergraduate degree here. I decided to make a campus visit after her glowing recommendation.”




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