Extraordinary Teacher Wins Prize for Excellence in Education

Extraordinary Teacher Wins Prize for Excellence in Education

September 4, 2013 - Karen Davenport, Agricultural Science and Technology teacher and department chair, advisor for the National Honor Society, Agricultural Council and Student Assistance Team, and co-chair of Relay for Life at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, CT, and co-owner and operator of Tollgate Farm in Ancramdale, NY, has been awarded the fifth annual James C. Kapteyn Prize. The James C. Kapteyn Prize was established in 2009 as a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to honor the memory of the late James C. Kapteyn, a celebrated and beloved teacher of Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA. This annual prize is awarded to a high school educator who exemplifies excellence in “whole child teaching,” serving in multiple capacities within a public or private school community. Karen will be awarded $10,000.

James C. Kapteyn dedicated his life as a secondary school teacher 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.” Kapteyn passed away on January 16, 2007 at age 45 while playing indoor soccer with friends and colleagues from Deerfield Academy, his alma mater, where for seven years he had taught English, served as the sophomore class dean, coached girls varsity soccer and boys varsity lacrosse and lived in a boys’ dormitory with his family. The primary mission of the James C. Kapteyn Fund is to honor James’ life and work by recognizing and supporting educators, who, as James did, offer extraordinary gifts to their students.

After Kapteyn’s untimely death, his best childhood friend, Adam Reeves, approached the Kapteyn family about creating a prize that would honor James and keep his legacy alive by annually recognizing an outstanding high school teacher. They established a relationship with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation which developed guidelines and sought candidate nominations from principals and heads of school throughout the region, which includes Berkshire and Franklin counties, MA; Columbia County and Northeast Dutchess counties, NY; and Northwest Litchfield County, CT. A selection committee comprised of Kapteyn family members and area residents with expertise in the field of education reviewed the applications. These included references from the respective heads of school, a colleague and a former student, as well as an essay on “Why I Teach” written by each applicant.

“While this year’s applicants were as extraordinary across the board as they are every year and the necessity for the selection committee to winnow one winner from among the superhuman group was as difficult as ever, Karen was ranked #1 by consensus in the very first round,” reported Kirsten Kapteyn, wife of James Kapteyn and chair of the committee. “She perfectly embodies the qualities we seek in our winners, the education and well-being of her students at the center of a noble life of selfless school and community service. In her application essay Karen wrote, ‘I feel blessed to be able to jump out of bed every day excited to start a new day at school... I am humbled and awed by the precious and influential privilege of teaching I have made my life.’ This kind of unwavering joy in and devotion to their students and teaching distinguishes all of our Kapteyn Prize winners and is felt deeply by their students and colleagues day in and day out. We are elated and honored to award Karen this year’s prize.”

Karen Davenport has just completed her sixteenth year at Housatonic Valley Regional High School where she has inspired creativity and enthusiasm among her students. Davenport’s love for agriculture started when she was a ninth grade vocational agricultural student. Due to her excellent Vo-Ag teachers, by the time she graduated from high school she knew she wanted to become an Agricultural Science teacher. HVRHS’s agricultural education program makes a powerful difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. The program Karen teaches allows her to combine the best of the classroom with after school activities, home visits and state and national events. She has helped many students follow their dreams, including a shy ninth grade girl with an interest in dairy cows who today owns a successful dairy farm. She has taught a variety of subjects over the years including biotechnology, aquaculture, food and fiber, small gas engine maintenance and veterinary science. Being an FFA Advisor has allowed her to supervise over one thousand students in their school to career experiences. In her free time she mentors children in 4-H, Sunday school, and the dairy princess program in New York, and she coaches the Eastern New York Holstein Club Dairy Quiz Bowl teams. Mrs. Davenport said it best herself: “When people ask me about my kids, I often have to ask them, ‘which ones? My birth children or my school ones?’…I have endeavored to mentor students in formal and informal settings, to build trusting, time-tested bonds and to encourage career, personal and family success.”

“I really couldn’t believe I won,” said Mrs. Davenport. “There are so many amazingly caring and dedicated teachers in our area. I wish that we could all share it! Thank you to the Kapteyn Committee for this wonderful opportunity.”

An Award Ceremony to honor Karen Davenport will be held on September 22 at 1:00pm in the auditorium at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. Prior to the award ceremony, there will be an optional brunch at 12:00pm in the café for $25 per person. To attend the brunch, RSVP to aporter@hvrhs.org by September 9.

The 2013 James C. Kapteyn Prize will be awarded at the Housatonic Valley Regional High School on September 22. For more information about the event, please visit kapteynprize.org. The deadline for nominations for 2014 is February 1. Applicants must first be nominated by their principal or head of school. Information about the application process can be found online. or by calling 413.229.0370. The Kapteyn Prize is an endowment of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

For over 25 years, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has built stronger communities and helped donors make a difference through charitable giving in northwest Litchfield County, CT; Berkshire County, MA; and Columbia County and northeast Dutchess County, NY. Each year, the foundation distributes over $7 million through grants and scholarships to nonprofits and individuals in the arts and education, health and human services and environmental protection. Berkshire Taconic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity. You can make a difference. We can help.





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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.

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