Jordan teacher win Williams College honor

May. 06, 2014 @ 06:32 PM

Jordan High School history teacher Brian McDonald has been named one of four winners of Williams College’s George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching.

McDonald was nominated for the award by Lilliana Morris, a senior at the college in Williamstown, Mass., and former Jordan High School student.

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.

Morris credits McDonald with sparking her own interest in teaching, contending that if she can touch a fraction of the students that McDonald has, she will be a success.

“Mr. McDonald establishes a safe space where anyone can feel comfortable asking questions,” Morris said of the class’s frequent conversations about poverty and wealth, race and discrimination. “His ability to casually engage students in cross cultural dialogue leads to friendship and understanding.”

McDonald’s teaching philosophy includes three concepts, which are rigor, engagement and service.

He was named the Claes Nobel Educator of the Year in 2013, voted by students the Most Inspirational Teacher in 2007, 2011and 2012 and was a fellow at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity (2010-2011).

Jordan High Principal Jerome Leathers said McDonald’s love for history is one that is revealed through his students long after they have left the classroom.

“The experience leaves them changed,” Leathers said.

McDonald is the author of “Not the End, but the Beginning: The Impact of Race and Class on the History of Jordan High School” and “Tell me, I’ll Forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand’: Bridging Instruction with Prior and Existing Knowledge.”

He is also an on-site coordinator and an adjunct lecturing fellow at Duke University and an AP Liaison for the Durham Public Schools.