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Faculty Awards 2024

Each year at division commencement ceremonies, Rowland Hall proudly honors faculty who have demonstrated exceptional teaching and mentoring.

The Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Awards

The Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Awards are given each year to outstanding faculty members in each division who have demonstrated a love for teaching and excellence in their fields. This award was established in 1985 by Kit Sumner and family, who have shown an unparalleled commitment to Rowland Hall for three generations. In 2022, Kurt Larsen, who shares the Sumners’ high regard for Rowland Hall’s faculty and dedication to the school, joined Kit Sumner in funding this award to increase its impact. The renamed Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Award is one of the highest recognitions of excellence in teaching at Rowland Hall.

Congratulations to the following recipients.

Beginning School: Bethany Stephensen, kindergarten lead teacher

Rowland Hall lead kindergarten teacher Bethany Stephensen.

Bethany Stephensen is a steadfast advocate for young children and for those who care for them. She is admired by her colleagues for her calm and centered approach with her students, even in the moments of relative chaos that are so common in the Beginning School. She is a trusted resource for families and a source of support and encouragement for colleagues. She is an innovator grounded in a rich understanding of what’s best for young learners, who has quietly and thoughtfully encouraged her team to make impactful changes to their grade level’s curriculum over the last few years. She is a deeply kind-hearted and compassionate human, who carries her students and their families in her heart, often with lightness, sometimes with heaviness, and always with love, for years beyond their time with her. Bethany can be counted on to share her valuable wisdom and insights with colleagues, often a day or two after the conversation because she’s been thoughtfully processing the discussion. She is a transformer of classroom spaces, an inspirer of rich dramatic play, a lifelong dancer and dance educator, and an unabashed Spice Girls fan.

Lower School: Jodi Spiro, third-grade teacher

Rowland Hall third-grade teacher Jodi Spiro.

Jodi Spiro has a talent for both teaching and for savoring life. She finds humor around most every corner and delights in the range of diverse personalities and quirks of her students. She seeks out adventure and growth both at school and in her life outside of school, demonstrating openness and eagerness for whatever may come her way. Jodi shows up with an authentic commitment to supporting students in their slightly weird projects or off-kilter ideas for writing original books, creating wacky showcase performances, and initiating change in our school community. She is a colleague who can be counted on to cheer you up or cheer you on when you need it, and who chips in to do important and hard work along with the fun stuff. And while Jodi may be famous for her deep understanding of and skill in teaching mathematics, it is her skill in helping kids and parents better understand themselves and each other that is so impactful. Jodi has changed a lot of lives for the better in her time at Rowland Hall, helping kids and families step through the many transitions in elementary school.

Middle School: Sara Donnelly, eighth-grade science teacher

Rowland Hall eighth-grade science teacher Sara Donnelly.

Sara Donnelly builds relationships with students in quiet and understated ways—knowing their strengths, growth edges, and interests—and fosters an environment where everyone feels valued and confident in their abilities. She is creative in her lesson design, balancing skill building and content knowledge with engaging, hands-on activities. She collaborates on a myriad of interdisciplinary projects and, on a departmental level, pushes for a culture of creative exploration and adopts a claim, evidence, and reasoning model for how to think and write scientifically. She looks for opportunities to support students and connect outside the classroom. And in her six years at Rowland Hall, Sara has continually transformed and refreshed the eighth-grade science curriculum, never taking what was done before and settling. From dissections to mirror mazes to the multitude of engineering and design projects, Sara constantly takes feedback from students, and the latest research on best teaching practices, to create an optimal learning environment that is engaging, challenging, and positive.

Upper School: Lynn Oliva, Spanish teacher

Rowland Hall Upper School Spanish teacher Lynn Oliva.

Lynn Oliva embodies this year’s theme, Learn for Life, in all aspects. She is relentlessly curious, always eager to take on a new professional learning experience, volunteer for a committee, engage in dialogue about teaching and learning, share her space, or show up in support of students and colleagues. She is described by students and advisees as kind, caring, patient, bubbly, committed, energetic, fair, understanding, approachable, and thoughtful. There are always students in her classroom, regardless of whether it is class time or not. Lynn looks to improve her craft and has taken special care to find coursework that better supports students with diverse learning needs, as well as to improve her own knowledge of and experience with her subject. In the past year alone, Lynn participated in Leadership and Design’s Culture Lab, volunteered for multiple committees, learned French for last year’s Interim, went to Gibraltar to get documents in support of her petition for Spanish citizenship, helped design and lead the fiber arts Interim, been lead advisor for the 11th grade, and advised several seniors. This is all in addition to working tirelessly in the classroom to create a spark for each and every student to learn and speak Spanish.

Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award 2024

The Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award is presented to Rowland Hall faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching, serve as mentors to others, and contribute to the Rowland Hall community. This award was established through an anonymous gift to the school in honor of Mr. Jones’ dedication to the faculty when he was the chair of the Board of Trustees.

This year’s Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award has been awarded to Tiya Karaus, second-grade teacher.

Rowland Hall second-grade teacher Tiya Karaus.

Tiya Karaus has an easy laugh and a gift for deep insight, and uses both to inspire students and colleagues. She demonstrates tenacity and stamina each school year, creatively solving (and re-solving) tricky problems in the classroom. She models persistence for colleagues, inspiring them to keep at it even when they feel tired or discouraged. In only a handful of years, Tiya has served the school in many ways, including contributing thoughtful insights to complex hiring processes. Colleagues report learning a great deal from her, and she can be counted on to interrogate her own assumptions and gracefully ask questions to move thinking forward. Tiya places a high value on creating a positive, empowering learning environment for students. A deeply dedicated teacher, she helps students see how much they are capable of. When helping students solve social problems, she masterfully supports their autonomy and dignity by coaching them to advocate for themselves, set boundaries, and express their feelings honestly and respectfully. This year, Tiya stepped into an unofficial leadership role, thoughtfully providing both structure and connection time for her grade-level team and acting as an effective advocate for their needs. She can always be counted on to step in and offer a helping hand, and can often be found walking fairly quickly from here to there to check in with folks, offer a listening ear, or just help make copies.

People

Faculty Awards 2024

Each year at division commencement ceremonies, Rowland Hall proudly honors faculty who have demonstrated exceptional teaching and mentoring.

The Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Awards

The Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Awards are given each year to outstanding faculty members in each division who have demonstrated a love for teaching and excellence in their fields. This award was established in 1985 by Kit Sumner and family, who have shown an unparalleled commitment to Rowland Hall for three generations. In 2022, Kurt Larsen, who shares the Sumners’ high regard for Rowland Hall’s faculty and dedication to the school, joined Kit Sumner in funding this award to increase its impact. The renamed Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Award is one of the highest recognitions of excellence in teaching at Rowland Hall.

Congratulations to the following recipients.

Beginning School: Bethany Stephensen, kindergarten lead teacher

Rowland Hall lead kindergarten teacher Bethany Stephensen.

Bethany Stephensen is a steadfast advocate for young children and for those who care for them. She is admired by her colleagues for her calm and centered approach with her students, even in the moments of relative chaos that are so common in the Beginning School. She is a trusted resource for families and a source of support and encouragement for colleagues. She is an innovator grounded in a rich understanding of what’s best for young learners, who has quietly and thoughtfully encouraged her team to make impactful changes to their grade level’s curriculum over the last few years. She is a deeply kind-hearted and compassionate human, who carries her students and their families in her heart, often with lightness, sometimes with heaviness, and always with love, for years beyond their time with her. Bethany can be counted on to share her valuable wisdom and insights with colleagues, often a day or two after the conversation because she’s been thoughtfully processing the discussion. She is a transformer of classroom spaces, an inspirer of rich dramatic play, a lifelong dancer and dance educator, and an unabashed Spice Girls fan.

Lower School: Jodi Spiro, third-grade teacher

Rowland Hall third-grade teacher Jodi Spiro.

Jodi Spiro has a talent for both teaching and for savoring life. She finds humor around most every corner and delights in the range of diverse personalities and quirks of her students. She seeks out adventure and growth both at school and in her life outside of school, demonstrating openness and eagerness for whatever may come her way. Jodi shows up with an authentic commitment to supporting students in their slightly weird projects or off-kilter ideas for writing original books, creating wacky showcase performances, and initiating change in our school community. She is a colleague who can be counted on to cheer you up or cheer you on when you need it, and who chips in to do important and hard work along with the fun stuff. And while Jodi may be famous for her deep understanding of and skill in teaching mathematics, it is her skill in helping kids and parents better understand themselves and each other that is so impactful. Jodi has changed a lot of lives for the better in her time at Rowland Hall, helping kids and families step through the many transitions in elementary school.

Middle School: Sara Donnelly, eighth-grade science teacher

Rowland Hall eighth-grade science teacher Sara Donnelly.

Sara Donnelly builds relationships with students in quiet and understated ways—knowing their strengths, growth edges, and interests—and fosters an environment where everyone feels valued and confident in their abilities. She is creative in her lesson design, balancing skill building and content knowledge with engaging, hands-on activities. She collaborates on a myriad of interdisciplinary projects and, on a departmental level, pushes for a culture of creative exploration and adopts a claim, evidence, and reasoning model for how to think and write scientifically. She looks for opportunities to support students and connect outside the classroom. And in her six years at Rowland Hall, Sara has continually transformed and refreshed the eighth-grade science curriculum, never taking what was done before and settling. From dissections to mirror mazes to the multitude of engineering and design projects, Sara constantly takes feedback from students, and the latest research on best teaching practices, to create an optimal learning environment that is engaging, challenging, and positive.

Upper School: Lynn Oliva, Spanish teacher

Rowland Hall Upper School Spanish teacher Lynn Oliva.

Lynn Oliva embodies this year’s theme, Learn for Life, in all aspects. She is relentlessly curious, always eager to take on a new professional learning experience, volunteer for a committee, engage in dialogue about teaching and learning, share her space, or show up in support of students and colleagues. She is described by students and advisees as kind, caring, patient, bubbly, committed, energetic, fair, understanding, approachable, and thoughtful. There are always students in her classroom, regardless of whether it is class time or not. Lynn looks to improve her craft and has taken special care to find coursework that better supports students with diverse learning needs, as well as to improve her own knowledge of and experience with her subject. In the past year alone, Lynn participated in Leadership and Design’s Culture Lab, volunteered for multiple committees, learned French for last year’s Interim, went to Gibraltar to get documents in support of her petition for Spanish citizenship, helped design and lead the fiber arts Interim, been lead advisor for the 11th grade, and advised several seniors. This is all in addition to working tirelessly in the classroom to create a spark for each and every student to learn and speak Spanish.

Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award 2024

The Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award is presented to Rowland Hall faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching, serve as mentors to others, and contribute to the Rowland Hall community. This award was established through an anonymous gift to the school in honor of Mr. Jones’ dedication to the faculty when he was the chair of the Board of Trustees.

This year’s Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award has been awarded to Tiya Karaus, second-grade teacher.

Rowland Hall second-grade teacher Tiya Karaus.

Tiya Karaus has an easy laugh and a gift for deep insight, and uses both to inspire students and colleagues. She demonstrates tenacity and stamina each school year, creatively solving (and re-solving) tricky problems in the classroom. She models persistence for colleagues, inspiring them to keep at it even when they feel tired or discouraged. In only a handful of years, Tiya has served the school in many ways, including contributing thoughtful insights to complex hiring processes. Colleagues report learning a great deal from her, and she can be counted on to interrogate her own assumptions and gracefully ask questions to move thinking forward. Tiya places a high value on creating a positive, empowering learning environment for students. A deeply dedicated teacher, she helps students see how much they are capable of. When helping students solve social problems, she masterfully supports their autonomy and dignity by coaching them to advocate for themselves, set boundaries, and express their feelings honestly and respectfully. This year, Tiya stepped into an unofficial leadership role, thoughtfully providing both structure and connection time for her grade-level team and acting as an effective advocate for their needs. She can always be counted on to step in and offer a helping hand, and can often be found walking fairly quickly from here to there to check in with folks, offer a listening ear, or just help make copies.

People

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