Every year at graduation it’s with great pride that Webb honors and celebrates the work of its distinguished faculty with a series of faculty awards. These awards both acknowledge the extraordinary service of our faculty, as well as provide support for their continued growth and professional development. This year we are proud to honor members of our Webb faculty with the following awards.
The Thompson and Vivian Webb Award was established and endowed by Dr. Edmund Piper, Webb School of California '43 to honor Thompson and Vivian Webb, and it is given to a teacher who has made an outstanding impact on The Webb Schools in service of three years or less. The recipient is determined by a preferential ballot among teachers, parents, and students and the award includes a stipend for the recipient's use in professional growth activities. This year’s recipient is Mr. John Choi.
Everyone educator knows that teaching goes well beyond the classroom. Master teachers can use their classroom as just one morsel of space to inspire students to want to learn more and to be better than just their individual selves. Master teachers give students agency, push them to out of their comfort zones, and drive them to think beyond their curriculum. Simply put, John Choi is a master teacher. But Mr. Choi is much more than just a master science teacher. John bridges what is, for many students, the often-unfathomable gap between science and social justice. John encourages his students to think about issues of equity, service, social justice, and about being more than just individuals inside of the safe Webb bubble. Instead, John helps his students think about themselves as part of the whole class, the whole effort, and the whole community. As one of his students says: “Mr. Choi is not only a teacher but an activist. He encourages me to assert my own identity and to be proud of who I am. He empowers me and so many others to keep fighting for the change we want and stand firmly with our beliefs.” John takes his multiple roles seriously and does not let himself get confined into just being a classroom teacher. The sign of a true master teacher. In addition to being an invaluable member of the science faculty, John is a committed advisor, a dependable and deeply dedicated Community Service coordinator, and faculty advisor to the Empower Student Voices Initiative. John puts his all into ensuring that at the end of the day, Webb is a better place. In two short years, John has left an indelible mark on this community and gives each and every one of us hope that together, we can make change. For his commitment to using science as a platform to give students a voice to be social change makers, we are pleased to award this year’s Thompson and Vivian Webb Award to John Choi.
The James T. Demetriades Prize for Unbounded Teaching was established in 2005 by Jim Demetriades ’80 in celebration of his 25th reunion. Mr. Demetriades established this prize to recognize a teacher specifically for an innovative and creative course, program or approach that fosters a hearty appetite for the joys of unbounded thinking and learning among students and others. The award is determined by a selection committee that includes the Deans, Assistant Head of Schools and the Head of Schools.This year’s recipient is Ms. Lisa Blomberg.
Have you been trying to decide which pharmaceutical company to invest in lately? Well, consult Lisa Blomberg for that! Not only can she tell you which company is in the lead, but she can explain the science behind why this is the case in terms you’d easily be able to understand. Just ask her biotech students. But, in all seriousness, in addition to keeping up with the vaccine race of 2020, as most of us know, Lisa has been an instrumental member of the Webb community. As the science department chair, Lisa has fearlessly led the charge in continuing to push the boundaries of our science curriculum. She has played a large role in helping the department and the school understand what deep learning looks like in the science classroom and has advanced the development and evolution of our Advanced Studies courses. Additionally, Lisa has continued to help hone and develop the core curricula in EvoBio and IPC. Her colleagues describe her as: “loyal,” “visionary,” “constantly thinking about innovating,” and “never settling for mediocrity or lessons that are ‘just good enough.’” Fearless of how a lesson or demo or lab will go, she dives into every class with unwavering passion for the subject but more importantly, hope and confidence in her students that they will successfully answer each and every one of those challenges. Pushing them to think beyond just the content, Lisa interweaves issues of equity, social justice, and human responsibility in the context of science into her units to help students think beyond just themselves. Beyond the classroom, Lisa has served as an advisor, dorm head, afternoon activity head, and a powerful ally and advocate for the student and faculty delegation that have attended the People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference. Additionally, this year, she delivered one of the most poignant, real, vulnerable, and powerful chapel talks that I’ve ever witnessed – both in my time as a student and as a faculty member; further evidence of her dedication to not only her craft, but to the entire community. Not only is Lisa constantly thinking about how to make the science curriculum truly unbounded, but she really is rewriting the script for what an unbounded teacher looks like. For her dedication to embracing the word ‘Unbounded’ to it’s fullest extent in all facets of her Webb life, we are thrilled to present this year’s James T. Demetriades Prize for Unbounded Teaching to Lisa Blomberg.
The Laurence McMillin Excellence in Teaching Award was established by David Loo ’79 to honor his beloved Webb teacher and for the purpose of providing faculty members in their first three to five years of teaching with resources to cultivate their skills and to strengthen their affiliation with The Webb Schools. This year there are two recipients of this award and they are Dr. Ardina Greco and Mr. MalickMbengue.
To enter the art room during Dr. Greco’s class is to feel the excitement and dynamism of the creative process alongside the calm and comfort of home. It is a fantastic vibe for cultivating artists – and that is how Dr. Greco treats her students – as real artists, who deserve to be taken seriously and who have boundless potential. She brings of course a tremendous artistic expertise to her classroom, helping students navigate color and materials and meaning. And she also brings a deep care for her students, as she helps to coax them to imagine, to express and to create.
Many of you know that Dr. Greco is a gardener and a chef. Imagine her coaxing a small bud to flower in her backyard, with patience and encouragement, with care and curiosity. One can also imagine this same attention, as she encourages her bread dough to rise or her pomegranate jam to thicken. And this is how Dr. Greco approaches her work as an educator.
Cooking rice in Jones Dormitory, listening to students process their college anxieties, explaining new cleaning protocols in the dorm lounge – as we all know, these are also acts of teaching. And with the same attention that Dr. Greco guides students to think creatively and to express themselves artistically in her classes, she also helps them to discover the secrets of living a full, meaningful and balanced life in the dorms and around campus. Dr. Greco is all in, as we say, a real boarding school educator with incredible heart and a dedication to Webb’s values and mission. With great admiration and thanks, we congratulate and present the Laurence McMillin Excellence in Teaching Award to Dr. Ardina Greco.
The second award recipient is Mr. Malick Mbengue.
Often seen around campus with an easy going stroll (dog and stroller close in hand), shades gleaming the reflections of sunlight, and a bright smile that will make anyone near him instantaneously forget about the bad day they might be having, this year’s McMillin Award winner has a certain...je ne sais quoi about him. Mr. Mbengue exudes, as my friends in Hawaii would say, the Aloha spirit. Regardless of how sleep deprived he may or may not be, or how many times he’s chased his kids, Samba and Badu, around the house, Malick is always positive, enthusiastic, excited, and shows a genuine concern towards everyone that he encounters. Malick carries this same energy into the classroom and his helps his students see beyond passé composé contreimparfait , explaining when to use le subjonctif, what the heck a VANDERTRAMP verb is, and helps them understand the value of how learning a language connects them to so much more than just what is on the page in front of them. Malick uses language as a vehicle to help students see the value of connecting to different cultures, beliefs, religions, values, and ways of life. Furthermore, his inspiration and teaching extends well beyond the classroom. On the soccer field, his passion for the game is palpable with every drill, practice, and match he coaches. His players learn so much more than just soccer. As one of his player’s parents states: “Coach Mbengue has spent hours dedicated to the students on and off the field. He is a mentor and an inspiration to the students.” Though Malick certainly has une attitude décontractée (that’s a laid back attitude for those of you non-Francophiles), his joie de vivre and passion for teaching have made his students, our faculty, and most importantly, our community, that much more vibrant and full of life. For his dedication to helping us all understand the importance of a global learning experience, this year’s (second) Laurence McMillin Excellence in Teaching Award goes to Monsieur Prof. Malick Mbengue.
The Jean E. Miller Excellence in Teaching Award was established and endowed by the affiliates in honor of Vivian Webb School's second headmistress to recognize a teacher who has made an outstanding impact on The Webb Schools and has served the schools for more than three years. The recipient is determined by a preferential ballot among teachers, parents, and students and the award includes a stipend for the recipient's use in professional growth activities. This year’s recipient is Mr. Brian Rogers.
Brian Rogers joined Webb in 2011 as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed educator, complete with cardigan sweaters and an abundance of passion. He’s known for both an occasional grumble as well as some wickedly clever jokes – Mr. Rogers is every bit as interesting and engaging and loveable as the old stereotype. In the classroom, Mr. Rogers oozes intellectual curiosity, his passion for reading and writing is palpable and infectious. Whether hosting a discussion of Truman Capote or a writing workshop for novice fiction writers, he encourages, provokes and celebrates his students, and they love him for it. Mr. Rogers models the passion of a life-long learner, as he takes up new areas of study – most recently online coursework on international relations – in part to contribute to his work as an educator – in this case, studying material to be added to his new course on the Press, Politics & American Power. His teaching extends well beyond the classroom. As an advisor, his wry humor helps to buoy his advisees, who feel his deep care for them, and in the many casual conversations he has around campus, Mr. Rogers engages our students, helping them to feel known, respected and valued. This award celebrates the many contributions he has made to our educational program and to our community in his time at Webb, and it is given with deep gratitude and affection. Congratulations, Mr. Rogers, on being this year’s recipient of the Jean E. Miller Excellence in Teaching Award.