WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College will award the annual George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching to four outstanding high school teachers on Saturday, June 1, at Ivy Exercises.

The recipients are Margaret DeBlois, an English teacher at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn, Maine; Deborah M. Proctor, a math teacher at Jensen Beach High School in Jensen Beach, Fla.; Lisa Rauschart, a history teacher at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.; and Iliyana Slavova, a chemistry teacher at the High School of Mathematics and Science “Ivan Vazov” in Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria.

Each year, Williams seniors nominate high school teachers who played influential roles in their lives and learning. A committee of faculty, staff and students chooses winners from among the nominees. Recipients of the award receive $3,000, and an additional $2,500 is given to each recipient’s school. The Olmsted Prize was established in 1976 with an endowment from the estates of George Olmsted Jr. and his wife, Frances.

Margaret DeBlois, Saint Dom’s

Williams senior Michael Girouard’s love of literature was sparked by DeBlois’ creative and evolving approaches to the study of literature and her “creative long-term investment in her students as individuals,” as Girouard said. “From my first research paper in seventh grade on chimpanzees to my final senior research project on James Joyce, Mrs. DeBlois has afforded me tools that I use and develop now as a French literature major,” Girouard said. “[Her classes] demonstrated a teaching philosophy that students should be challenged to convey their understanding in a variety of ways, even outside of their comfort zones.”

DeBlois has taught English at Saint Dominic Academy since 2006, returning to her childhood dream of teaching in 2003 after working as a marketing consultant. She works with students in grades 10 through 12 in classes ranging from remedial through AP English.

She also teaches creative writing and public speaking, has developed a new English department curriculum for the school, is the coordinator of Poetry Out Loud, serves on the writing curriculum steering committee, and is the adviser to a new student newspaper.

Girouard says that her exceptional commitment to students “shows an understanding that academic performance and success is contextual and influenced by factors outside of the classroom. For this reason, it has always been important for her to know her students individually.”

Dawn Theriault, DeBlois’ colleague and department chair, applauds Deblois’ “way of reaching every student by drawing out their skills and talents and allowing them to experience both their strengths and weaknesses in order to better their performances.”

Girouard agrees that DeBlois’ creative teaching methods allowed for significant personal mentorship, saying, “Her investment in me and in all of her students was so deeply personal it was palpable.”

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