Grantee Spotlight: Robert Thistle

Grantee Spotlight: A born teacher

Bob Thistle loves the company he keeps. Surrounded for 25 years by optimistic young students, he is a master teacher with a deep commitment to his school and community. On Sunday, he was recognized for his achievements as the sixth James C. Kapteyn Prize winner.

Bob began teaching at Mount Greylock Regional High School in 1998, where he stayed for six years before returning to his alma mater, Pittsfield High. He returned to Williamstown in 2011, and two years later was named teacher of the year. He currently serves as the mathematics curriculum leader, teaches an SAT prep class in the evenings and coaches the boys’ varsity basketball team.

Described by colleagues as a teacher who brings his subject alive and effectively reaches students who struggle with math and those who excel in it, Bob was chosen from a field drawn from 80 public and private schools in the four counties served by Berkshire Taconic, which administers the award.

The James C. Kapteyn Endowment Fund was established at Berkshire Taconic in 2009 to honor the memory of a beloved Deerfield Academy teacher. It recognizes educators who, like James Kapteyn, offer extraordinary gifts to their students. The prize, which comes with a $10,000 award, celebrates mentors who lead by example and prioritize their students’ personal growth. It was presented by Kirsten Kapteyn, James’s widow, and his sister, Molly Boxer.

“I have spent my entire twenty-five year career surrounded by young people who have a wild optimism about the world, the future and their own lives,” Thistle says. “I know in my bones, heart and soul it is what I was born to do.”

You can read a story about Sunday’s ceremony on