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Singer Family Awards honor extraordinary high school teachers

May 24, 2018
group portrait of Singer Award winnersUniversity of Rochester's Singer Family Award winners for 2018, seated, from left to right, Cristina Duarte, Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School, New York, NY; Teresa Haskiell, James Wood High School, Winchester, VA; Allison Cain, Kent Denver School, Englewood, CO; Michael Zitolo, School of The Future, New York, NY; and their student nominators, standing, from left to right, Joseph Gray, Brian Baker, dean of the College Jeffrey Runner, Perry DeMarche, and Hannah Parker. (University of Rochester 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.

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.

Paul Singer ’66 supports the prizes through the Paul Singer Family Foundation.

“The University is fortunate to be able to offer such a wonderful award recognizing the exceptional people that mentor our students during their high school years,” said Jeffrey Runner, dean of the College. “This mentorship is evident in the amazing students we have here at the University, and we are thrilled to be able to offer the Singer Award every year to such deserving educators.”

The recipients of this year’s award are Allison Cain from Kent Denver School, Englewood, Colorado; Cristina Duarte from Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School, New York City; Teresa Haskiell from James Wood High School, Winchester,  Virginia; and Michael Zitolo from School of the Future, New York City.

Allison Cain – French – Kent Denver School, Englewood, Colorado
Nominated by Perry Demarche

Perry Demarche, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, says Cain gave her the skills and confidence to communicate in French outside of her coursework.

“By sharing her personal stories of life and research abroad, Mrs. Cain taught me how to use the language to build rapport with people—a skill that was critical for my anthropology research and journalism research,” Demarche says. “Mrs. Cain’s courses are a significant reason that I have been able to accomplish what I have in college.”

Cain’s influence has inspired Demarche to teach English abroad after graduation, and later to pursue a graduate degree in cultural or linguistic anthropology.

Cristina Duarte – English – Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School, New York City
Nominated by Joseph Gray

Joseph Gray, who created his own major in urban studies, says he never would have had the opportunity to go to the University if it weren’t for Duarte giving him the courage he needed to succeed.

Gray describes Duarte as a dedicated teacher, as well as a kind-hearted, caring community member. He recalled that “whether her students came from a broken home, had children of their own to care for, or were homeless, Ms. Duarte was there to help… We all knew that she was buying notebooks, pens and pencils for the students who couldn’t afford them.”

As a student who was once in such a position, Gray is forever grateful for the encouragement and support that Duarte provided.

“This unique educator helped students who had given up on their dreams to realize what was possible if they truly believed in themselves,” he wrote.

Teresa Haskiell – Math – James Wood High School, Winchester, Virginia
Nominated by Lt. Brian Baker

Brian Baker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering and a rank of lieutenant in the Army through the Army ROTC Cadet program offered by the University in partnership with the Rochester Institute of Technology. He says he would not have made it through without Haskiell’s support.

“She inspired me to advance in my own education following a sophomore year of academic hardships,” Baker wrote. “I struggled to believe in my abilities, but with her positive encouragement, she gave me academic purpose again.”

Baker describes Haskiell’s dedication to promoting her students’ education and careers as unparalleled. During his years in high school, he benefited greatly from Haskiell’s push to add AP Calculus to James Wood High School’s curriculum. Currently, Haskiell is pursuing further education in computer science to add and teach an AP Computer Science course and enable even more students advanced opportunities.

“Mrs. Haskiell is a teacher who gives everything to see the success of her students,” Baker writes.

Michael Zitolo – Physics – School of the Future, New York City

Nominated by Hannah Parker

Hannah Parker, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, says that Zitolo helped her develop self-confidence and leadership. When things became challenging, Zitolo encouraged her to continue with her math major despite her doubts.

After a disappointing grade on her math midterm, Parker says she broke down after Zitolo asked her how she was doing. She says that as a truly dedicated teacher, Parker “stopped what he was doing and went over the midterm with me, page by page, pointing out not just where I had made careless mistakes, but everything that I had done right. Had it not been for him, I would have never stuck with a STEM major.”

Parker is grateful for all that he has done for her, and adds that Zitolo continued to be part of her support system throughout her years in college.

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Category: Student Life