Lai Wa Wong ’17, who is double majoring in sociology and computer science, nominated her high school Spanish teacher, Katerina Toulatos, for the Gideon Hawley Gideon Hawley Teacher Recognition Award. Named for the 1809 graduate of Union who was New York state’s first superintendent of public education, the award is given to secondary school teachers who have had a continuing influence on the academic life of Union students. The award was presented at this year’s Founders Day Celebration on February 26, 2015. Below is the text of remarks by Therese McCarty, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, as she presented the award:
I am very pleased to introduce to you this year’s winner of the Gideon Hawley award, Katerina Toulatos, a teacher of Spanish at Millennium High School in Manhattan, New York. I would like to invite Ms. Toulatos to come forward along with the student who nominated her, Lai Wa Wong, an interdepartmental major in Sociology and Computer Science from the Class of 2017.
Lai Wa’s nominating essay describes Ms. Toulatos’ ability to stimulate students’ interest in language learning. For example, Lai Wa writes, “Ms. Toulatos pulled out the map of the New York City Transit system. She explained very eloquently that knowing multiple languages is the same as being able to travel all these different paths of trains. Knowing one language limits us; to travel on only one line in the massive system of trains is ultimately a loss. From then on, I was hooked—learning a new language is important. Since I knew Chinese and English, I was able to travel on two lines. But Ms. Toulatos, she had five lines she could travel on.”
In describing her Spanish 4 class, Lai Wa writes, “It was all about authentic Spanish literature and film. Although grammar was no longer the sole focus, I knew that I had better keep my grammar sharp because the compositions and tests called for it. I went out of my comfort zone and made up Spanish sentences on the spot when she asked us deep questions about the literature.” Lai Wa also describes Ms. Toulatos as “a mentor and a confidant,” indicating that she notices students’ efforts and hard work, thereby encouraging dedication to learning.
On behalf of Union’s faculty, I would like to thank you, Katerina, for the excellent work that you have done to prepare Lai Wa and your other students for their college years and beyond.