Tasia Cheng-Chia Wu of Berkshire School Wins $10,000 Kapteyn Prize

Tasia Cheng-Chia Wu of Berkshire School Wins $10,000 Kapteyn Prize

Dec. 1, 2020

Sheffield, Mass. — Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation announced today that Dr. Tasia Cheng-Chia Wu, a music teacher at Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass., has been awarded the 12th annual James C. Kapteyn Prize for excellence in teaching in an unprecedented year for the region’s educators and students. She will receive a $10,000 award for study or travel to enrich her teaching, and the school will receive a $2,000 grant in her name.

Wu joined Berkshire School’s music department in 2000. In addition to teaching music theory and advising students, she directs the chamber orchestra program and female a cappella ensemble, organizes a visiting artist series, and serves as music director and plays piano for musical theater productions. Under her leadership, the school’s music program has grown to include courses that focus on chorus, chamber music and music theory. She is a source of support for international students, who refer to her as “mom.” She launched a popular Lunar New Year event featuring food, decorations, presentations and fireworks to celebrate the heritage of students who are often thousands of miles from home.  

Colleagues, students and parents describe Wu as a passionate, innovative, endearing and selfless instructor who is also a gifted musician and an award-winning composer and director. “Dr. Wu is more than a teacher—even more than a mentor,” wrote recent graduate Logan Renneker. “She is an attitude. Her generosity, confidence, love of hard work and, most of all, kindness are imprinted upon every student she touches.”

Head of School Pieter Mulder credits Wu for enriching the experiences and amplifying the voices of the school’s international students. In a letter nominating Wu for the prize, he wrote, “She has been a critical person in the lives of so many students experiencing Berkshire School through the lens of another language and culture. To have Dr. Wu there for them has been incalculably important.”

Current student Hamda Hussein of Somaliland in East Africa says she views Wu as a role model and parental figure. “Dr. Wu has been making sure that I feel at home and that my identity and culture are recognized. She organized an advisory dinner where we cooked Somali traditional food. Those kinds of moments, which I am very grateful for, taught me the art of appreciation and the importance of welcoming people with love and kindness.”

In a written statement, Wu says she teaches because she believes in the power of music and its capacity to impart broader life lessons. “Learning music requires building discipline, keeping an open mind, using creative thinking and communicating with others effectively. I feel blessed to be able to share my passion for music with students who are willing to take risks and try new things.”

The James C. Kapteyn Endowment Fund was established at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in 2009 to honor the memory of beloved teacher Jamie Kapteyn, who taught English and coached soccer and lacrosse at Deerfield Academy, the Williston Northampton School and Cushing Academy. He dedicated his 20-year career to embodying the idea that, in the words of William Butler Yeats, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." The fund’s primary mission is to honor its namesake’s memory by recognizing and rewarding extraordinary educators in Berkshire Taconic’s four-county region of northwest Litchfield County, Conn., Berkshire County, Mass., and Columbia County and northeast Dutchess County, N.Y., as well as Franklin County, Mass. 

The Kapteyn Prize will resume its annual award selection in 2022. Principals and Heads of School may nominate an outstanding educator who meets the vision of the fund by Feb. 7, 2022. Learn more and view a list of previous Kapteyn Prize recipients at www.berkshiretaconic.org/KapteynPrize

Media Contacts:
Justin Burke / Darryl Gangloff
E: jburke@berkshiretaconic.org / dgangloff@berkshiretaconic.org
P: 413.229.0370 x123 / x114






EforAllPartners

From left: 1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler, Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation Board President Jay Anderson, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, EforAll CEO David Parker, and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation President Peter Taylor.

About Hammertown
About Hammertown
Hammertown Barn Event Committee
Back Row: Lael Locke, Hila Richardson, co-chair Gloria Callen, Patricia Jean, Amy Gold
Middle Row: Susan Hillel, Katherine Martucci, Wendy Curtis, Palmer Irving, Beth Ledy
Front row: Diana Hurley, Joan Osofsky, co-chair Sally Berg
About Chatham
About Chatham
Photo of Chatham Middle School by John Dolan.
About Ellsworth Kelly
About Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly. Photo (c) Jack Shear
About Construct Inc
About Construct Inc
Construct, Inc’s Cultivate Community Project was supported by BTCF’s South Berkshire County Fund.
About Elders Services Meals on Wheels
About Elders Services Meals on Wheels
Elders Services Meals on Wheels Program supported by the William J. and Margery S. Barrett Fund for Adams, Cheshire and Savoy.
About Summer Sundays
About Summer Sundays
Summer Sundays at Six Street Festival supported by the Fund for Williamstown.
About Northeast Community Center
About Northeast Community Center
The Northeast Community Center is supported by BTCF’s Northeast Dutchess Fund.
About Teen Theatre
About Teen Theatre
The Teen Theatre Project at the Hudson Opera House supported by the Fund for Columbia County.
About UNITY
About UNITY
The UNITY Youth Leadership Program: youth receive training on leadership development - including communication, conflict resolution, diversity, planning and decision making is supported by the Robert and James Hardman Fund.
About Great Barrington
About Great Barrington
The Great Barrington Land Conservancy restores the Housatonic River Walk with help from BTCF’s Berkshire Environmental Endowment Fund.
About Mary-Ellen
About Mary-Ellen
Mary-Ellen’s artwork involves reusing and reconfiguring natural manmade materials. She was awarded BTCF’s Tupelo Award.
WillHutnick

Will Hutnick of Wassaic, N.Y., received a Martha Boschen Porter Fund grant last year to create large works of art on canvas and paper, as well as sculptures. He said this new body of work, which has been exhibited locally and at venues in Chicago and Brooklyn, would not have been possible without the support of the grant. Regional artists in all media may apply for the Martha Boschen Porter Fund by July 15. Photo: John Dolan