Though incoming freshmen may already feel as though high school was a lifetime ago, many still took time this summer to thank the teachers who made their journey to Yale possible.
Last week, the Yale Admissions Office announced the recipients of the 2014 Educator Award, an award given by Yale to high school teachers and counselors who are nominated by incoming freshmen for the impact they had on these students’ lives. Out of 306 nominees, 53 teachers and 30 counselors won this year’s award. While winners received engraved desk sets and congratulatory letters by mail, several interviewed said the emotional reward was the best part of the prize.
Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the Yale Educator Award was created in 2006 out of a “desire to recognize teachers and counselors who play a critical role in helping students reach their academic and personal goals.”
After soliciting nominations from the freshmen by email in June, a small committee of admissions officers — usually with the help of a student summer employee — selects the winners, basing the decisions heavily on the freshmen’s nomination letters, he said.
The number of winners ranges between 75 and 100, Quinlan said.
“When selecting winners, we look for educators whose presence in a student’s academic life was truly meaningful,” he said. “We are also interested in recognizing educators from schools that do not typically send students to Yale.”
Quinlan said the award has been given to teachers from many different types of high schools.
Winning teachers and counselors interviewed said they considered the recognition a great honor.
Misti Gossett-Thrower — a counselor from the York International School in Thornton, Colorado who was nominated by Viviana Andazola ’18 — said she sees her position as a school counselor not as a job but as an opportunity to impact future leaders.
“The award is an incredible honor that validates the years of guidance provided not only for Viviana, but for all students,” she said.
Paola Suchsland — a Spanish teacher at Valencia High School in Placentia, California who was nominated by Daniel Hamidi ’18 — said she heard about the nomination and the award on the first day of school when she got a text message from Hamidi with the news. She burst into tears.
Suchsland, who said she continues teaching even with a three-year-old and six-month-old at home because she sees “so much potential and intelligence” in her students, said that this recognition from Hamidi and Yale made the demands of her job seem worthwhile.
She added that the award also means a lot to her father, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico 25 years ago looking for a better life for Suchsland, her mother and her siblings.
“When I told him about this award, he got really emotional and started crying,” she said. “This award is also for him, for his hard work.”
Hamidi said he screamed with excitement when he found out that Suchsland had won, adding that it was an “incredibly gratifying feeling” to know that a teacher who had done so much for him had been formally recognized by Yale.
Katherine Campbell — a social studies teacher at Eagle River High School in Eagle River, Arkansas, who was nominated by Taylor Holshouser ’18 — said she felt most moved by the lasting impact she had had on her student.
“It was an enormous pleasure for me to get this award, not only because Yale is such a stellar institution, but because I sent one of the best students I’ve ever had, and he didn’t forget where he came from,” she said. “Often the students who earn the top grades seldom think to stop and say thank you — let alone do it in the beginning of [their] college career when [there are] so many challenges and fun to be had.”
Still, Katie Watson ’18 said she was disappointed that Yale only recognized counselors and academic instructors this year rather than including other kinds of high school mentors.
Watson said she nominated an art teacher she credits with her acceptance to Yale.
“She is the person that shaped my education, pushed me to take risks and supported me whether I succeeded or failed,” she said. “I was upset to find that she wasn’t chosen for an educator award, and that the array of selected instructors were purely academic, with no representation of the arts.”
There are 1,361 students in the class of 2018.