This year's Fellows include: Lower School music teacher Deborah Newnham, Hon., Middle and Upper School classics teacher Lee Burnett, Upper School English teacher Lee Billmyer, Hon., and Theatre and Arts Department Chair Dan Clay, Hon.
Established in 2016 by Lou and Kim D'Ambrosio P '17 '18, The D'Ambrosio Fund for Extraordinary Faculty seeks to inspire teachers to achieve the highest level of work with its Fellowship program and by funding professional development activities. This year's class of Fellows joins thirteen others who embody the transformative impact and extraordinary efforts our teachers make every single day at Episcopal.
Mrs. Newnham has inspired generations of EA students to discover their musical talents, find their voice, and gain an appreciation for music. Dr. Locke said of Mrs. Newnham, "EA's youngest musicians have benefitted greatly from her warmth, patience, and talent for 25 years." Mrs. Newnham is highly creative and constantly seeking ways to better connect students with music, including incorporating digital tools, like Garageband, into her curriculum to help students further explore composition and theory.
After being surprised with the honor during LS Chapel, Mrs. Newnham shared, "I am humbled to receive the D'Ambrosio Fellowship. God blessed me with a gift to teach children music. It is my job to use my gift every day." She thanked her colleagues, adding, "It truly takes a village to raise a child."
Dr. Burnett consistently brings the ancient world into the 21st century by demonstrating the Classics' continued relevance in modern times for both MS and US students. Dr. Locke said, "His enthusiasm for his discipline creates a classroom environment that is as fun and joyful as it is challenging and rigorous."
Dr. Bunnett shard how much it meant to him to be recognized with his students surrounding him, "I was really just blown away when Dr. Locke made the announcement in Chapel. When it became clear that he was talking about me (Star Wars and chess were clear giveaways), the students around me in the pews congratulated me and seemed genuinely excited. It was so nice to have them be a part of the occasion."
Mr. Clay has elevated EA's Theatre and Dance department through masterful teaching and direction. He is a dedicated advisor, advocate for the arts at EA, and mentor and friend to his colleagues. Dr. Locke said of Mr. Clay, "Under his direction, our students have accomplished great feats and won many awards, but for this teacher, it's not about that. For him, it is about inspiring students, building confidence, and finding ways to allow each person to shine in their own spotlight."
Mr. Clay was surprised and honored to be recognized, saying, "For dedicated faculty to be celebrated in this way is a testament to the values of our community. We're lucky to have access to such generous professional development, and I feel privileged to be afforded the opportunity to work alongside this group of esteemed colleagues."
In her 34 years at EA, Mrs. Billmyer has connected students with history's foremost novelists and poets, advised numerous clubs, and mentored students with great enthusiasm. Dr. Locke said, "Mrs. Billmyer's unmatched expertise and knowledge help stimulate lively discussions and often lead to students discovering a new passion." She is a true team player; her colleagues describe her as dedicated, selfless, and welcoming, ever-willing to step up and pitch in for her fellow teachers.
After being recognized for the Fellowship, Mrs. Billmyer said, "I remind myself how fortunate I am to work with colleagues I greatly admire and in a school that appreciates the faculty. I have the advantage of stepping into classrooms energized by eager, authentic scholars. Each day is a thrilling adventure when highly talented students at Episcopal fuel my desire to continually improve my craft."
The D'Ambrosio Fund for Extraordinary Faculty rewards excellence in teaching in recognition of the importance of recruiting, retaining, and supporting the very best faculty members. Teachers are central to our children's lives and development, and "extraordinary teachers change lives," Lou D'Ambrosio said, upon the Fellowship's founding in 2016.
Mr. Burnett thanked the D'Ambrosio family for this honor, saying, "The D'Ambrosio Fellowship is really special because it simultaneously celebrates what teachers have been doing and challenges them to grow. It's a pat on the back and also a gentle push to go further through professional development and to collaborate with peers on resources to help other teachers develop their practice."
Mrs. BIllmyer agreed, sharing, "The D'Ambrosio Fellowship provides the incentive to continue growing and finding new ways to inspire students and collaborate with faculty members. I am eager to create and meet new challenges in the world of education because each year expectations increase. Adapting to trends and technology or enhancing the learning environment is part of the growth mindset that requires teachers to step up their performance. This Fellowship affords us the opportunity to take all the necessary steps!"