Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards
Each year at Commencement, Amherst College presents the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards to three outstanding secondary school teachers who challenged, inspired and moved members of the graduating class. The awards are named for the first president of the College and his wife. This is the 11th year that Amherst has presented the awards.
Jim Cortez, a chemistry teacher from The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, was nominated by Alexander Bridges ’07 of Ponte Vedra, Florida. In his nomination, Bridges wrote that Cortez “puzzled and confounded me more than all of my other teachers combined.” He described Mr. Cortez’s classroom as “a three-dimensional habitat for his courses,” and said Mr. Cortez’s teaching style made students “digest the material and struggle with it personally.” Bridges said Mr. Cortez “encouraged me to take personal responsibility for my work, kindling a deeper commitment to my studies and a profound respect for academia.…He taught me that I could study hard and still laugh at myself and stop once in a while to enjoy the ride.” Mr. Cortez has been teaching at The Bolles School for 31 years.
Bob Fenster, a history and government teacher from Hillsborough High School in Hillsborough, New Jersey, was nominated by Thomas Chen ’07E, who said Mr. Fenster is “a teacher who opens his students’ minds to multicultural history, a teacher for whose students reading and writing go beyond textbooks and into film, music and the Internet.” Chen praises Mr. Fenster’s unique multimedia presentation style: “With carefully crafted media presentations, Fenster showed the horrors of Nazi Germany, the historical view of hip hop and the reigning power of the Beatles and Bob Dylan.” This teacher inspired Chen to change his own career path, from law to teaching, in order to follow Mr. Fenster’s example of training lawyers and activists. Mr. Fenster has taught at Hillsborough for 14 years.
Joanne McClelland teaches Advanced Placement literature at Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She was nominated by Samuel Guzzardi ’07, who wrote of the profound influence that she has exerted on his life. “Her message to me was simple and unwavering: with privilege comes responsibility,” he said. Mrs. McClelland used her own experience in overcoming obstacles to found and lead AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, a program that provides guidance and academic support to first-generation college students. Her unconventional approach to teaching literature led Guzzardi to create his own interdisciplinary major, Experiential Justice Studies, at Amherst. Guzzardi also said that Mrs. McClelland inspired him to accept a position with Teach for America. Mrs. McClelland has been a teacher for 17 years, and has taught at Chapel Hill High School for 12 years.