Alumni Award Recipients
Except from the award presentation remarks made by Country Day Board Chair, Art Roselle, during commencement exercises for the Class of 2017:
This year’s honoree has taught in two different divisions and three different grades and has shined at every level. He joined the Country Day faculty as a third grade teacher in 2001 and quickly earned a reputation for bringing out the best in his students, both academically and developmentally.
Hodges Davis, parent of two of his former students, shared, “The greatest gift he gave my children was permission to be different, and this changed their world in many ways. He would say that not only is it good, it was great. He made them and every student feel like a superstar.”
This year’s honoree is a talented educator, seamlessly adjusting his methods and excelling as he’s moved from third grade, to fourth grade, and now fifth grade. His approach to teaching is both challenging and accessible, and his positive energy is contagious.
Ask anyone who knows him and the first thing that comes up is his incredible sense of humor. Warren Sepkowitz, Head of Middle School, said, “Because he is so darn funny, sometimes his dedication to the art and craft of teaching is not as obvious to some as his humor. However, his humor is integral in setting a tone for students to relax, which puts them in a better place to focus and do their assignments, ultimately deepening their appreciation for the subject matter.”
He has a serious side, too, which is necessary in his role as a grade coordinator dealing with student disciplinary issues. He is able to calmly deliver a tough message in a non-judgmental and reassuring way that conveys to students that he is on their side and there to help.
This year’s honoree is an expert in building relationships and fostering a deeper sense of community at Country Day. Linda Wolf, his colleague in fifth grade, explains, “He is living proof that it’s not what you say that people remember, it’s how you make them feel. In his unique, crazy way he makes people of all ages feel really good just by being in his presence.” Country Day board member Christi Byron said, “He forms strong, lasting relationships with students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators that transcend his daily responsibilities.”
This year’s honoree is an explorer who enjoys travel and trying new things, and he shares this passion with students both in and out of the classroom. Fifteen years ago, he founded the fourth grade Oceanography Club, or “O Club” for short, and bravely embarked on a trip to the Outer Banks with dozens of fourth-grade students and their parents. The O-Club trip has become a beloved Country Day tradition that many families have participated in multiple times with their children over the years.
Greg Thompson, a parent who went on the O-Club trip in 2008, shared, “I got to know some great parents, great kids, and great teachers in an action-packed, well-organized, fun environment that was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Best of all, I got to spend some one-on-one time with my daughter. Neither of us will forget the time we had together.”
Will Davis, an alumnus from the Class of 2012, shared a memory about his former teacher and wonderfully captures the dedication, originality, and spirit of this year’s honoree. Will said, “I’ll never forget learning multiplication tables in his third grade class. He had promised us a surprise if everyone passed the test. I remember the day we got our tests back and I hadn’t passed. For the next couple of days, I waited with dread for him to make the announcement that we would no longer be getting our grand surprise, because one person didn’t get a good enough grade.
Instead, he showed up to school one day with a large amount of duct tape and a stepping stool. Beaming, he announced to the class that we had all done great, and he would now do what he had promised. He would allow us to suspend him in the air by duct taping him to a post. It was an incredible day and picture I still look back on fondly.
Talking to him much later, he joked with me about how much he regretted letting us do that, about how painful it was taking all of that duct tape off. I always think. He had an out. He could have told the truth, said we didn't pass, and he was joking the whole time. But he didn't. He followed through. Because he cared about us more than anything. And he was never going to make one person feel less than any other.”
Truly this year’s honoree has made a lasting impact on our students and our community, and we are proud to recognize Tom Fredenberg with the 2017 Distinguished Faculty Award.