"Senior year was the hardest year of my life, and I couldn't have gotten through it without Mr. Shulman.”
— Caroline Wegner, AB’16
“Mr. Pande taught me for two years, and that was enough to transform my approach to learning.”
— Kumar Anurag, AB’16
“Mrs. Foster and her English class completely changed the way I approach language.”
— Michika Maeda, AB’16
“Mrs. Albert opened the world of math to me, and I'll be forever grateful to her for that.”
— Katherine Wheeler, AB’17
“Mrs. Hancock is always there to lend a sympathetic ear, listening to problems great and small.”
— Andrus Hatem, Class of 2020
“Dr. Ferguson makes each student feel like they are the most important person in the room.”
— Sarah Weiswasser, Class of 2019
Meet the Teachers Who Change Lives
They think carefully about their instruction. They share an infectious love for learning. They care about their students, both inside and outside the classroom. Outstanding educators go beyond everyday teaching and leave an impression that is carried over a lifetime.
Every year, UChicago gives newly admitted students the opportunity to recognize the educators who have made a difference in their lives. And every year, over a third of the incoming class responds with stories that are truly inspiring. The University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award recognizes all teachers who are nominated, highlighting the stories that show education’s power to transform.
View some of our past winners:
Carlos Montero, 2012 Award Recipient
Dr. Michael M. Krop High School
"Mr. Montero is a consummate educator. His zeal for Chemistry is infectious, and is, in large part, the cause for my own interest in the sciences. Mr. Montero has been my teacher, my mentor, and my friend." — Marc Vernick, AB'17
With nine years of teaching, Carlos Montero is committed to the idea that he has something to learn from his students. As a Chemistry teacher, he embraces creative approaches to the scientific method and is always accepting of mistakes.
Bonnie Moss, 2012 Award Recipient
Portage Central High School
"Bonnie Moss is an outstanding educator for reasons that extend beyond the simple definition of what a ‘teacher’ is. She built upon my desire for education and reinforced the importance of cultural understanding. — Daniel Tumm, AB'16
Bonnie Moss knew she would pursue teaching when she entered high school and fell in love with the Spanish language. In her classroom now, Señora Moss incorporates a total immersion method, working everyday to help students prepare for Spanish both in college and outside the classroom.
Jonathan Shulman, 2012 Award Recipient
World History and U.S. Government & Politics
La Jolla Country Day School
La Jolla, CA
"Senior year was the hardest year of my life, and I couldn't have gotten through it without Mr. Shulman. He created an environment in the classroom that encouraged argument and discussion, one that didn't penalize you for a wrong answer, where everyone became equals and, eventually, life-long friends." — Caroline Wegner, AB’16
Jonathan Shulman is motivated by his students’ ability to contribute to their communities. He seeks out special partnerships with community groups like the San Diego History Center to ensure that his students receive a well-rounded education that fosters a lifelong love of learning.
Devodra McMillan, 2012 Award Recipient
Lawrenceville High School
“She is individualistic, charming, and bold, but also deep down, while her searing sarcasm makes it hard to see, perhaps the most caring and loving adult on campus.” — Daniel Kang, AB’16
Devondra McMillan appreciates how students offer unique perspectives on the world. As a Classics and Latin teacher, she uses the liberal arts to instill perseverance and self-confidence so that students can make educated decisions about who they want to be.
Lisa Thyer, 2012 Award Recipient
Amos Alonzo Stagg High School
Palos Hills, IL
“Between her coaching early morning track practices and staying after the bell to answer questions, Mrs. Thyer dedicates all of her time to helping the students she so obviously cares about.” — Mara Heneghan, AB’16
Lisa Thyer is motivated by stories. She loves how they push her students to develop empathy and to think beyond the surface. Whether it’s bringing in a slam poet or relating to Shakespearean tragedies, Mrs. Thyer constantly works to make her curriculum relevant.
Bipul Pande, 2012 Award Recipient
Dhirubhai Ambani International School
"Mr. Pande is one of those rare people who not only has an unimaginable passion for his subject, but also an ability to instill such passion in others. He taught me for two years, and that was enough to transform my approach to learning. His approach to education is based on curiosity, and he does an excellent job of provoking us to ask more questions." — Kumar Anurag, AB’16
Bipul Pande teaches his students to dream. He’ll repeat things a hundred times if that’s what it takes to make something stick, and he insists that, even with 20 years of teaching experience, he’s still learning patience, tolerance, and understanding everyday in the classroom.
Denise Foster, 2012 Award Recipient
Adlai E. Stevenson High School
“Mrs. Foster and her English class completely changed the way I approach language. Junior year was stressful, but talking to Mrs. Foster always allowed me to refocus and see the important things in life.” — Michika Maeda, AB’16
Denise Foster is committed to the idea that teaching English goes beyond reading or writing, and is also about teaching students to explore and grapple. Mrs. foster writes with her students and goes out of her way to share personal stories to foster honest, insightful classwork that helps make sense of the world.
Ian Altman, 2012 Award Recipient
Clarke Central High School
“Mr. Altman is perhaps one of the most selfless people I have ever met. His classroom is a safe haven for discussion of anything, however controversial.” — Joyce Lu, AB’16
Ian Altman creates an environment where students are pushed not just to solve problems, but to create them as well. He asks his English class to reflect and be critical of its own curriculum, and, with a record of assisting undocumented immigrants, he strives to leave a legacy as an advocate for all students.
Lynn A. Mittler, 2012 Award Recipient
Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School
St. Louis, MO
“Ms. Mittler does everything with a smile and a bit of sarcastic humor, which helps criticism on papers go down better. As a teacher, advisor, coach, and mentor, Ms. Mittler does it all and then some.” — Sophia Critchfield-Jain, AB’16
Lynn Mittler wants her students to learn about the world around them. In her nearly 20 years of teaching, she has created a class called the Global Action Project and has fostered all kinds of interdisciplinary work at her school. She pushes her students to become leaders in their fields or creators of new fields entirely.
Marcia Lavine, 2012 Award Recipient
European History and Art History
University School of Nashville
“Dr. Lavine did more than give us hard tests and massive amounts of material by pushing us to see in new and different ways. I never thought of myself as a high schooler in her class; she gave us more credit than that and treated us as students in the purest sense of the word, never watering down material or accepting less than our best.” — Murphy Spence, AB’16
Over 24 years of teaching has taught Marcia Lavine to say “I don’t know” when asked a question outside of her expertise. She emphasizes the importance of making educated guesses and, as a means of improvement, she insists that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes.
Mary Clair Wissman
Mary Clair Wissman, 2012 Award Recipient
International Academy’s West Campus
Bloomfield Hills, MI
“In her classroom, the French language is not only about conjugations and tenses. It turns into a culture and a whole new world to explore. Giving us pep talks when our school load gets too large to handle, and advice when we need it, she always makes sure that she is there for us every step of the way.” — Rebecca Mak, AB’16
Mary Clair Wissman can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. Over her 16 years teaching French, she has worked hard to incorporate on-site teaching and enjoys how her students help her remember what it’s like to discover something for the first time.
Önder Kaya, 2013 Recipient
“Önder Kaya always wanted us to speak and listened to our opinions carefully. His positive nature helped me be optimistic during some bad times. He managed to make history one of my favorite subjects.” — Hazal Goksu, AB’17
Önder Kaya is a history buff who is committed to finding aspects of the subject that are both fun and didactic. He makes the most of his school’s location in Istanbul, often incorporating walking tours of historic districts to make the instruction more hands-on.
Anita Chetty, 2013 Award Recipient
The Harker School
San Jose, CA
“She put her faith in me and fought to get me a place on a government-funded research team. Some teachers are willing to risk their time and personal efforts for students they take an interest in, and Ms. Chetty has done that countless times.” — David Grossman, AB’17
Anita Chetty appreciates the opportunity to work with students as they’re beginning to form their opinions about the world. As a biology teacher, she strives to provide them with the tools needed to be engaged, confident problems solvers.
Ellie Rozendaal, 2013 Award Recipient
Sunset High School
“She articulated her respect for each and every one of us. And because she gave us free reign and enabled us to operate largely on our devices, we matured and grew so much more than anybody could have ever taught us.” — Amy Wang, AB’17
Ellie Rozendaal recognizes the spontaneity, intensity, and fresh hope that students bring to the world. As advisor of the school’s newspaper, Mrs. Rozendaal strives to teach her students to be creative thinkers who make their own paths and lead those around them.
Benita Albert, 2013 Award Recipient
Oak Ridge High School
Oak Ridge, TN
“Mrs. Albert opened the world of math to me, and I'll be forever grateful to her for that. Her level of dedication to her students is what makes her the most outstanding educator I have ever known.” — Katherine Wheeler, AB’17
Benita Albert is a lifelong math enthusiast who, after participating in a graduate fellowship, chose to devote over 45 years to spreading her passion in the classroom. Mrs. Albert encourages any and all questions, and takes pride when her students go on to use their math backgrounds in diverse fields like business, medicine, and law.
Charles Griffith, 2013 Award Recipient
“Mr. Griffith is outstanding because he worries deeply for his country and the entire humanity. He feels for the human race, takes on the mission to make the next generation better individuals and citizens, and believes that he can do so by teaching.” — Hansong Li, AB’17
Charles Griffith lives for the “aha” moments inside the classroom. He strives to use his history class to promote critical thinking, and is guided by the notion that a liberal arts education promotes a more flexible mind and a more complete person.
Matthew Goetz, 2015 and 2017 Award Recipient
Beijing National Day School
“Mr. Goetz is patient and encouraging when class is difficult, and he constantly pushes our boundaries to help us be better scholars. We are encouraged to be critical consumers of culture, and to live actively and wisely.” — Xibai Wang, Class of 2019
Matthew Goetz is often reflective about his practice as a teacher and even goes as far as to regularly have conversations with his students about non-academic stresses in their lives. His hope is that students continue to be kind and caring people in order to make a difference in the world.
Marius Radulescu, 2015 Award Recipient
Morgan Park Academy
“A prime example of his selflessness, dedication, and caring is the time that Mr. Radulescu sacrifices from his personal life to ensure that students may continue the learning process outside of classroom hours.” — Analiese Batchelor, Class of 2019
Marius Radulescu is driven by the idea that it takes more to ask a good question than it does to answer it. Beyond a sensitivity for math research, Mr. Radulescu hopes his students will leave his classroom with an ability to apply math skills like logic, rigor, and imagination to everyday life.
Ellen Ferguson, 2015 Award Recipient
Montclair Kimberley Academy
“Dr. Ferguson makes each student feel like they are the most important person in the room and never passes up an opportunity to remind each student how special and brilliant they truly are.” — Sarah Weiswasser, Class of 2019
Ellen Ferguson loves a little bit of healthy student skepticism, jokes about wordplay, and admitting when she doesn’t know something. In the classroom, Dr. Ferguson hopes she can help students be true to themselves while preparing them to live in the real world.
Meredith Hancock, 2016 Award Recipient
International School of Geneva
“Mrs. Hancock is always there to lend a sympathetic ear, listening to problems great and small. We’re happy to work as much as necessary for someone we consider a near and dear friend, and the result is a class where every student excels.” — Andrus Hatem, Class of 2020
Meredith Hancock brings a wealth of experience from the Canadian public sector to her work in the classroom. Side by side with the student body, Mrs. Hancock is involved in everything from the Creative Writing Magazine to theatre productions. Wherever her students’ interests lie, she sees it has her obligation to help them uncover and develop their potential.
Dr. Azra Raiz
Dr. Azra Raiz, 2016 Award Recipient
“In an effort to cultivate my love of learning, Dr. Riaz provided me with articles, books, and other resources for on various topics unrelated to her subject matter. She paved the way for the type of education I wanted, an ever expanding search for more knowledge, and I am eternally grateful to her.” — Ashad Qureshi, Class of 2020
Dr. Arza Raiz knows the importance of establishing connections with students. She strives to make her biology class engaging, and uses her material to cultivate a sense of responsibility towards ecosystems and people in general.
Michael Friedman, 2017 Award Recipient
Princeton Day School
“Mr. Friedman is not only brilliant, but also patient and caring. If some of us didn't understand something, he would try a different approach to teaching it until each and every person understood.” — Jacob Chang, Class of 2021
For Mr. Friedman, being an educator is about figuring out where your students are and working with them to reach the next step. He considers his teaching a success when his students emerge as kind, curious, and capable thinkers.
Dr. Thaddeus Lisowski
Dr. Thaddeus Lisowski, 2017 Award Recipient
The Head-Royce School
“His real gift is in forging personal relationships with his students. Having spent four years studying with Dr. Lisowski, I consider him a teacher and mentor of the highest degree, but foremost in my mind he is a friend.” — Miles Burton, Class of 2021
Dr. Lisowski takes a student-first approach to this teaching, focusing on what the class needs to develop together. As teacher of Latin, it is infinitely rewarding when his students laugh at jokes that are 2,00 years old or are moved to sympathy by poems of Ovid and Virgil. He hopes that his coursework can helps students become more mature, open-minded thinkers.