Campus & Community

Conant recognizes outstanding educators

3 min read

Two area teachers receive stipend for study at HGSE

Sylvan and her mother
As she chats at the Faculty Club, it’s clear that Conant Fellow Laura Sylvan (left), teacher at the Graham and Parks School in Cambridge, has a great admirer in her mother Loyola Sylvan (right). (Staff photo Jon Chase/Harvard News Office)

The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) presented two outstanding educators in the Boston and Cambridge public school systems with James Bryant Conant Fellowships on May 19. The awards, which were given by HGSE Dean Kathleen McCartney, the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development, and Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn, provide a one-year stipend for study at HGSE. The afternoon presentation of the fellowships was held at the Harvard Faculty Club.

The winners of this year’s stipend are Amy Smith, an English teacher at Charlestown High School, and Laura Sylvan, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at the Graham and Parks School in Cambridge.

“I’m about two-thirds through my teaching career and it’s a good time for me to stop and take stock,” said Sylvan, who attended the awards ceremony. “I love learning and think it’s good to remember what it’s like to be a student.”

HGSE awards the Conant Fellowships to support the professional growth of outstanding Boston and Cambridge public school teachers and administrators who have shown commitment to public education and demonstrated leadership potential. As a stipulation of the award, fellows are required to continue in their school systems for one year after receiving their advanced degree. Recipients are chosen by the Conant Fellowship Committee, which includes representatives from HGSE as well as the Boston and Cambridge public school systems.

The fellowships, named after the former Harvard University president who was a dedicated supporter of public education and a strong advocate of school reform, were established in 1986 to commemorate the University’s 350th anniversary.

The fellows

Amy Smith began teaching English at Charlestown High School four years ago, after participating in the Department of Education’s Massachusetts Initiative for New Teachers (MINT) Program. Prior to teaching in Boston, Smith completed her undergraduate degree in English literature at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. While there, she also sought out opportunities in education – working with an autistic student, teaching English in Mexico, and tutoring immigrants in Middletown. She will be attending the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the teacher leadership strand of the School Leadership Program, seeking her master’s degree in education. With this degree, she hopes to initiate new programs based on collaboration; for example, programs that bridge the gap between teachers and organizations in the community that would like to help their students. Of particular interest to Smith are ways to connect artistic communities with urban schools.

Laura Sylvan has taught at the Graham and Parks School in Cambridge for the past 17 years. For five years she participated in the Cheche Konnen project that looked at how language-minority children make sense of things in science. She also participated in the Understanding Earth Science by Design program held by TERC, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving science and math education. During her year at the School, she will seek a master’s degree in education from the specialized program. Sylvan previously earned her undergraduate degree in environmental interpretation from Colorado State University and later received her master’s in science education from Boston University.