AMHERST -- Three secondary school instructors who challenged, inspired and moved members of Amherst College’s Class of 2012 will be honored with the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards during the school’s 191st commencement exercises, which begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
This year’s recipients are Alexis Dekel, a math teacher at Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School in Adams; Jacson Lowe, a psychology teacher and baseball coach at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough, N.C.; and Eyal Wallenberg, a math teacher at The Urban Assembly School for Law & Justice in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The honor recognizes instructors and counselors who have been important in the lives of graduating Amherst students. The winners were chosen by a committee of seniors, faculty and staff from nominations submitted by members of the Class of 2012.
Nominator Robert Todd Volkman was in Dekel’s math class during his sophomore year, when Dekel taught at Pittsfield High School. He remembers her classroom as a "safe and happy," colorfully decorated place full of hundreds of books, "a small home she had built where we would have everything Š we needed to be good, complete and knowledgeable people."
Volkman wrote that his teacher always "seemed to have her finger on the pulse of the class," responding to both the academic and the emotional struggles of her students. Eventually, Dekel invited Volkman to begin assisting his peers who were having more trouble with the materials. In helping them, he wrote, he developed his own more complete and multifaceted understanding.
He said Dekel helped her students start a Math Dance Club, wherein "we improvised movement that reflected mathematical concepts in dance." And when, as a senior, Volkman became part of her nine-person Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus class, she sometimes "invited us as a group to her home [to study], giving up nights and weekends to ensure that we were prepared. At so many times and in so many ways, she went above and beyond what the school, the state, the AP Board and even we expected of her. The only repayment she requested was our trust and that we fulfill our own expectations."