Through the efforts of Melissa Leonhardt, alumna from the Class of 1976 and former
trustee, the Leonhardt Foundation established, in 1988, the first endowed teaching
chair at Miss Hall's School. Every four years we designate another recipient
for this prestigious and lifetime honor, and we will do that now. Before we
announce the new recipient, however, I ask Expressive Arts Department Chair
Gary Miller, who currently holds the Leonhardt Chair, to come forward and
receive a memento of this distinction. [
The Leonhardt Teaching Chair is a permanent recognition of a faculty member who possesses the highest personal and professional ethics, of an educator who has made a life-long commitment to young people, of a teacher whose skillful instruction enlivens the experience of learning, of a mentor whose wise counsel and guidance to students extend beyond the classroom.
Giving the Leonhardt Teaching Chair to a Miss Hall's faculty member is a challenging job, since the criteria for the chair are met, truly, by so many of our teachers. The long careers in commitment to young people, the high ethics, the skillful instruction, and the guidance beyond the classroom are what set this School apart. So the real task in this case has been to find the most broadly recognized carrier of the Miss Hall's ideals. The selection process invited students and faculty to submit essays on prospective recipients. Many teachers, I should tell you, received eloquent nominations, but, in the end, the choice became very clear.
"E stands for Energy," wrote one nominator, and for "Enthusiasm" and for "Empathy." And, "when cubing E," as this colleague continued, "the forces serve to multiply one another so that the product is greater than the sum of the parts, and a new quality, let's call it Quality E (for Education), is the result."
An entire class collaborated in nominating the new holder of the Leonhardt Chair and wrote than "an excellent teacher is a person, who, as [she] teaches, enjoys learning something new...." They confirmed that this person still does enjoy learning, that she is the "impetus for [unique and creative] change," and that she has made "remarkable things happen in [her] department." Another student wrote, "... she is truly devoted to her career as a teacher and proves this through her close-to-perfect style of leading her classes." This nominator goes on to say that she has "invincible enthusiasm" and then writes, "Frankly, I have never seen anybody showing the kind of awe and wonder that [she] reveals when talking about [her subject]... you [even] see her hurrying... to class in pure eagerness."
And once she is in the classroom, as one student wrote, "she makes it come alive. She shows students how material learned relates to everyday living... [and] she has the determination to make [us] understand concepts and why they work, rather than just have [us] accept... the rules."
But this individual is much more than a skilled teacher. Girls write that she listens to them and that, quote, "they truly have a voice in her classroom." She even understands "that Fridays are hard days to focus." They can also depend on her to, quote, "be there when we need her... be it once in a while or every single day." "She never shows frustration toward [our] lack of comprehension," wrote a student, and it is her "friendliness and open-mindedness that encourages me to approach her when I have trouble understanding... or when I'm simply anxious."
Her "doors are always open," be it for trick-or-treating or "just to sit for a while on her swing." "She is always smiling," wrote a student, "the kind of person to whom you would wave at first in a mall." (This girl added, for my edification, that "students don't like to be seen by teachers at places outside of classrooms.") Girls wrote, "I love and respect her... she is more like a mother or a friend..."
This teacher's dedication and energy are brought to bear on an original and effective way of teaching her subject. We all remember that mathematics has a special, symbolic language that some of us understood and others did not. In her breakthrough methodology, this educator teaches girls to translate the shorthand abstractions into normal English syntax, thereby making key math concepts available to many more students. She teaches girls how to "read" mathematics, and once they succeed, they gain tremendous confidence.
The creator of the E cubed equation mentioned above also wrote, "... the transference of the aforementioned three Es is essential to the success, development, and positive self-image of the Miss Hall's Girls."
"It will come as no surprise to even the most casual observer," he
then concludes, "that upon reviewing the data and considering the
intangibles, the following formula results:
Let's see if I can read this equation: "Lots of energy, enthusiasm, and empathy is equivalent to the combination, one multiplied by the other, of the Leonhardt Family Teaching Chair and Carol Fisher."