Each summer at Aim High, emerging teachers are chosen for the prestigious Anne Murray Ladd Teacher Fellowship. First awarded in 2004 in remembrance of a beloved Aim High teacher, the Anne Murray Ladd Teaching Fellowship annually honors outstanding teachers who embody her spirit, passion, and commitment to social justice, and who exemplify Aim High at its finest.

Anne Murray Ladd was a student at Lick-Wilmerding High School when she was introduced to Aim High by her U.S. History teacher (and Aim High co-founder), Alec Lee. At his encouragement, she joined the Aim High team where she taught for several summers, leaving behind an enduring and long-lasting influence. Anne’s contributions to Aim High are numerous and include the signature youth-development course, Issues + Choices, which she developed as part of an independent study project at Wellesley College. To this day, Issues + Choices continues to empower our students and teachers with lessons in diversity, self-advocacy, and identity. Anne’s sister, Jessica, was also a talented Issues + Choices teacher with Aim High for many years.

Since 2004, 28 teachers have been awarded with the Anne Murray Ladd Teaching Fellowship. They have gone on to lead impactful lives as community organizers, educators, professors, and lawyers.

The 2016 winners of the Anne Murray Ladd Teaching Fellowship are Dimitri Barton, Sarah Jahr, Kaitlyn Nelson, and Fatima Zavala. Read more about them below!

Sincere appreciation to Anne’s generous family for supporting Aim High and for creating this timeless tribute. We are very appreciative.


Dimitri Barton

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Dimitri with members of Anne’s family (far left), his father, and Aim High co-founder and Executive Director, Alec Lee (far right).
  1. What are you currently doing in life? I just finished my undergraduate education in education studies and English. Right now, I’m finalizing my elementary teaching certification, and later this year I’m going to México where I’ll be a volunteer assistant in an elementary school. I’ll also teach English and learn how to dance salsa on the weekends. When I return, I hope to study bilingual education in grad school.
  2. What are you professional aspirations? I aspire to be a classroom teacher. I’m currently focusing on how to incorporate music and movement into my classroom practices. I’ve been studying The Orff Schulwerk, a child-centered music pedagogy theory, which has helped me structure musical elements into my lessons.
  3. Why did you decide to teach? My first exposure to teaching was as a soccer coach. As I began to feel more comfortable facilitating groups and providing learning opportunities in soccer, I eventually made the leap from the field into the classroom.
  4. What is something important that you learned from teaching? I learned how valuable it is to genuinely appreciate the work and effort of students, colleagues, and strangers. I also what to add that I feel lucky to have had Christine Dawson as my mentor during student teaching.
  5. What were your initial thoughts about winning the award? It was tremendously motivating to receive this award in the time between graduating college and starting my teaching career. I feel so lucky to be recognized for the very practice that I love so much and that I intend on dedicating my life to. I am eager to continue growing as an educator and a life long learner.

I feel so lucky to be recognized for the very practice that I love so much and that I intend on dedicating my life to. I am eager to continue growing as an educator and a life long learner.


Sarah Jahr

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Sarah graduated this spring from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in modern languages and literature
  1. What are you currently doing in life? I just accepted a year-long position with AmeriCorps to work at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. I’ll be working on an initiative that focuses on youth homelessness and youth who are aging out of foster care. I’ll also work on an initiative that connects caregivers with regional resources.
  2. What are you professional aspirations? Although I’m unsure of what my professional aspirations are exactly, I know I’d like to work with youth and be involved in community engagement. Whether through teaching or community organization I am unsure, but I know that is the direction I would like to go in.
  3. Why did you decide to teach? I decided to teach because I wanted to have hands-on experience with middle school youth. I found out about Aim High from Katie Jamieson, (TTAH Site Director) and I liked the model and message of the program. I kept coming back each year because of the emotional investment I had in the students. It really motivated me to continue teaching.
  4. What is something important that you learned from teaching? Aim High has taught me the importance of having connections with students and it has showed me all that teachers can be. I taught the class Issues + Choices, and it was amazing to see how building personal connections with each student increased their involvement and participation. I hadn’t fully understood how important this aspect of teaching was before I started Aim High.
  5. What were your initial thoughts about winning the award? I was ecstatic to learn that I had won this award! I felt honored to be chosen out of all the phenomenal teachers at Aim High, and I’m extremely proud of the work I have done in Tahoe/Truckee. It felt incredible to be recognized.

Aim High has taught me the importance of having connections with students and has showed me all that teachers can be.


Kaitlyn Nelson

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Kaitlyn stands with Anne’s parents and Alec after receiving the award at the Excelsior campus.
  1. What are you currently doing in life? School-wise, I am finishing up degrees in global environmental science and ethnic studies at University of Hawaii, Manoa. Job-wise, I am doing research for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which connects to my thesis on relative vulnerability of fishing communities to climate change throughout Hawaii. I’m also teaching an Ethnic Studies course and am working with student athletes to coordinate academic support.
  2. What are you professional aspirations? I either want to work in public policy and specifically focus on minimizing the effects that environmental hazards have on low-income communities, or I want to teach. I love teaching and can’t imagine not being in a classroom (this is influenced in large part by my experiences at Aim High!).
  3. Why did you decide to teach? I applied to Aim High after a friend suggested that I do so. I later found out that my dad used to teach for Aim High years ago as well! I’ve been thinking about being a teacher for as long as I can remember—I used to force my siblings to be my students in my imaginary “school” in our living room (they still haven’t forgiven me for making them to go to school after they got home from school)—and working for Aim High made that idea tangible and realistic for the first time.
  4. What is something important that you learned from teaching? I learn so much from teaching every single day- from the students, my co-workers, and myself. This summer, my students blew me away with their intelligence, insightfulness, and maturity: They constantly remind me to think from different perspectives and deepen my understanding of the things we talk about. From my coworkers, I learn so much about being a more effective teacher; Being surrounded by people who are so incredibly good at what they do and who are so available for me to bounce ideas off of has been an invaluable resource and made me such a stronger teacher. And finally, teaching has made me more thoughtful and intentional, and made me more comfortable with taking something that didn’t work the first time and adjusting it so it works better—both in the classroom and in all aspects of my life. I feel more comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.
  5. What were your initial thoughts about winning the award? I couldn’t believe it! When I first received the call,  I thought I was in trouble for something! I’m still in shock, honestly. I am so inspired by Anne’s life and her many contributions to Aim High. She was such a special person, and it’s beyond humbling to receive this award in her name and be included with three other outstanding teachers. And, it was really amazing to share that experience with my students when Alec and Anne’s parents presented the award on campus.

Teaching has made me more thoughtful and intentional…I feel more comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.


Fatima Zavala

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Fatima attended Lick-Wilmerding High School and tutored Aim High students before joining the team in 2013.
  1. What are you currently doing in life? I’m enroll in my last year of undergrad at Clark University where I’ll graduate psychology major and a minor in women’s and gender studies. I will mostly be working on my honors thesis, which focuses on adolescent relationships.
  2. What are you professional aspirations? My professional aspirations are a bit broad at the moment. I want to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), but I’m still deciding where I want to work after I receive my license. I’m leaning towards working in schools but am keeping an open mind and considering hospitals as well.
  3. Why did you decide to teach? My high school was heavily involved with the Aim High and I had volunteered a couple of times to tutor Aim High students during the regular school year. The summer before my first year of college, I knew I wanted to get the most out of it so I applied to teach. From tutoring, I knew I loved working with children, so I thought that learning what it was to be a teacher would be a great learning experience.
  4. What is something important that you learned from teaching? The most valuable lesson I learned from teaching was to appreciate all of the work my teachers had done for me all of my life. It was an eye-opening experience to see the amount of time and work that goes into a lesson plan. I truly began to understand how under-appreciated the job of an educator is in our society.
  5. What were your initial thoughts about winning the award? My site directors had mentioned that I was going to receive an exciting e-mail very soon, so being the curious person I am, I started checking my e-mail constantly. Everyone thought it was hilarious how nerve racking it was for me to see what the e-mail was about. Finally, Alec Lee came to our campus and pulled me aside and told me the great news. I was extremely surprised and couldn’t believe I had been chosen as one of the Anne Murray Ladd award recipients. It was truly honor to be selected as a recipient.

Teaching was an eye-opening experience…to see the amount of time and work that goes into a lesson plan. I truly began to understand how under-appreciated the job of an educator is in our society.

One comment on “Anne Murray Ladd Teaching Fellowship: Aim High at its Finest”

  1. 1
    Stacey Lewis on October 5, 2016

    Sara this is so so good! My favorite 30×30 yet.

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