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Lisa Stringfellow Wins Pennypacker Prize for Teaching
Lisa Stringfellow Wins Pennypacker Prize for Teaching

[NOTE: The following is an excerpt of the announcement of the 2017 winner of the Pennypacker Prize. Head of School Sarah Pelmas unveiled the surprise at the annual Faculty-Trustee Dinner, held Dec. 4, 2017.]

The Pennypacker Prize is a special way for us to recognize a Winsor teacher of great promise.  Created in 2002, the award is "given annually in the name of Henriette Pennypacker Binswanger '52, with respect and admiration for the educational excellence of the Winsor School and the memory of an extraordinary experience." 

For me, this award speaks to the very best of Winsor, to our extraordinary teachers and to the love and respect their students and colleagues have for them.

And this year's winner joins impressive company: our list of past recipients includes Andrea Chase, Josh Constant, Julia Harrison, Jeremy Johnson, Meara Kaufmann, Denise Labieniec, Dana Martin, Kim Ramos, Ken Schopf, and Stephanie Wratten, to name a few.  OK, to name a lot.

The Pennypacker Prize is awarded each year to a teacher relatively new to Winsor who is in at least in his or her third year of full-time teaching here.  It's intended to encourage the recipient's continuing educational growth and development.  Indeed, this year, the list of nominees reminded me how lucky we are to work with so many exceptional teachers.  Which means that we had the difficult task of choosing just one person.  As challenging as that was, in the end, this year's recipient stood out. 

Tonight, I'll share a few of the many reasons why this year's winner is so deserving of the honor.

As her colleagues are quick to say, she's brought many gifts both to her department and to the school as a whole—from her vast knowledge of pedagogy to her fabulous tech savvy to her trademark generosity. 

Her classroom is just like her: bright, cheerful, literary, and energy-filled.  Her students and colleagues alike can get lost browsing the extensive library that adorns the shelves of Room 4.  Not only is she well-versed in the wide range of Young Adult literature, she also writes her own YA novels.

As a writer, she encourages our youngest students to become writers themselves.  She introduced a NaNoWriMo unit into our curriculum, which challenges our fifth graders to write their own novels during the month of November along with a global community of writers.  They approach this project each year with incredible enthusiasm and great pride!

Our Pennypacker prize winner also values giving her students authentic audiences.  Her fifth graders have blogged about their reading and enjoyed responses from students in other schools.   Stop in to a session of her Fiction Writers Club, and you might find them Skyping with an established author about writing and publishing.  At the end of the year, you can enjoy a reading from the Class I girls of their own works, with proud parents in attendance.

Always wanting to improve students' experience, she is constantly evaluating her curriculum.  This fall, for example, she chose to teach a new novel in Class I, as part of a global read-aloud project, of Linda Sue Park's Long Walk to Water.  Tackling this book about the Lost Boys of Sudan shows again how much she values having her students make connections far beyond our Winsor community.

The organizers behind the global project loved seeing the deep and thoughtful questions and responses her students generated through a kids' blog.  In fact, they are looking to incorporate our girls' voices into a new book for educators about engaging students in discussions around diversity and privilege through literature. 

In all of her classes, she strives to help students understand why they are doing what they are doing.  She establishes clear consistent routines and gently encourages kids to meet to those expectations.  Her patience is seemingly endless, and her demeanor encourages respectful behavior from all.

As a faculty colleague, she is wonderfully collaborative and brings nothing but positive energy to the department office.  She has graciously welcomed new colleagues into the mix and also partnered with fellow teachers across disciplines on revising activities such as the Salem unit in English and history. 

Within her department, she's also admired and relied on as one of the go-to people for technology.  In fact, the entire school relies on her for her tech savvy. She's shared informative and useful lessons on an array of technological resources.  She'll readily share her wisdom with anyone who asks for help, whether it's teaching digital storytelling or monitoring student work. Always learning, she actively seeks out professional development.  She brings back what she learns and shares her discoveries with the rest of us.

Speaking of sharing wisdom, when she was asked recently for suggestions of diverse book titles for kids, she sent us all an incredibly comprehensive set of online resources that she had carefully curated. The list was inspiring and fun and full of every kind of book; I immediately got 10 of the titles for my own son! And such is her influence on her Class I students that, when I went into her classroom two weeks ago before the school day had started, I found 9 students sitting quietly in their chairs doing what? Reading!

For all of these reasons and more, we are so very lucky to have her in our midst!

Please join me in applauding this year's recipient of the Pennypacker Prize: Lisa Stringfellow.

 

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