During the final faculty/staff meeting of the school year, held remotely on June 1, three members of the St. Stephen’s faculty were recognized for outstanding teaching and innovation. Middle School history instructor Octavia Sadler and Science Department Chair Frank Mikan were awarded the Dean H. Towner Master Teaching Chair. In addition, Upper School science instructor Kathy McCain received a new innovation grant from the Borders Family Endowment for Faculty Innovation.
History Department Chair Shelley Sallee, Ph.D., kicked off the awards celebration. “The holders of the Dean H. Towner Master Teaching Chair are experienced, devoted teachers who exemplify Dean Towner's sterling character, care for the students and the well-being of the school, and demonstrated years of commitment to excellent teaching at St. Stephen's,” explained Sallee, who noted that the award winners receive a $2,500 stipend to be used for professional development.
“If St. Stephen’s is radically welcoming, this teacher helps make it so,” Sallee said of Sadler, who joined the school faculty in 1997. In addition to teaching History 6, she is the 6th-grade team leader. “She is a passionate advocate for the potential in each and every student. She understands that before you can learn well, you must feel that you belong. She cares about students’ ideas. She takes students’ curiosity and concern and equips them to wrestle with some of the most pressing humanitarian issues on our planet. We love you, Octavia, and thank you for your decades of dedication.”
Upper School chemistry instructor Melissa Livsey helped honor the second Towner Master Chair recipient. Mikan has taught physics at the school since 1994. In addition to heading the science team, he offers tours of the evening sky to the school community from the school’s observatory. “He is a role model teacher for the rest of us with his ability to relate to students,” Livsey said. “He practices what he preaches: ‘Make learning fun!’ He supports many different teaching styles and is always ready with a compliment.”
Known across campus for her wonderfully humorous odes, Livsey wrote several verses in Mikan’s honor. Here’s a snippet of her tribute:
He found his call to teaching and has never looked away
Seven classes in a year? “Of course!” He would say.
He is a great fan of the chalkboard and others may think he is “old school”
But just try to leave his classroom thinking science is not cool.
Livsey was followed by Head of School Chris Gunnin, who introduced a new faculty innovation award and the inaugural recipient. “The Borders Family Endowment for Faculty Innovation was established to stimulate growth and innovation at St. Stephen’s by providing annual opportunities for faculty development that propel continued advancement and transformation in curriculum and programming,” he said. “Annual distribution from the endowment, initially $8,000, will fund innovation grants for one or more teachers each year.
“I am pleased to announce that the 2020 recipient of the Borders Family Endowment for Faculty Innovation is Kathy McCain,” he stated. McCain joined the St. Stephen’s faculty in 2000 and, in addition to teaching biology, serves as the 9th-grade team sponsor.
Several years ago McCain used an innovation grant to take a deep-dive into biotech incubators and explore ways to incorporate lessons in biotechnology into her course curriculum. As a result, she has been able to teach students about such innovations as DNA extraction and fingerprinting. “Next year, she is offering an upper-level elective in biomedical technology,” Gunnin added.
Congratulations to these outstanding St. Stephen’s faculty.