Three Outstanding Teachers Praised

Terry Culleton, Ralph Lelii, and Paul Machemer ’65 were celebrated at the George School Closing Banquet on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. Members of the faculty and staff came together to say their thanks and goodbyes to this year’s retiring faculty. “George School cherishes their contributions to the school’s critical effort to be a unique community of learning,” said Head of School Sam Houser.

“Terry has been dedicated his whole career to letting students tell their stories, to look inside and awaken rather than outside and to simply dream,” shared Ralph who celebrated Terry at the banquet. Read more.

Terry was praised for creating a learning environment for his students that was both intellectually rigorous and psychologically safe, inviting, and fun. The personal touches and connections he made with students, the high intellectual bar he set, the collaborative spirit he created, his imaginative and mischievous sense of humor, and his contagious love of language and literature made his classroom a most special place. Terry encouraged a wide range of opinions, considered each student’s opinion essential, and gave each student the same time, attention, and respect. His detailed commentaries on student writing motivated them to improve their work while providing support and confidence to share their writing with others.

“Ralph has given his students and advisees unconditional respect,” shared Terry and Nancy Culleton. “He’s made IB students feel that their hard work is valued and valuable. For Ralph the stewardship of students’ intellectual development and emotional well-being has been a sacred trust.” Read more.

In the classroom, Ralph used literature as a tool for nurturing adolescents’ love of inquiry and beauty. He created a safe place for students to voice their views, used disarming humor to welcome disagreement, and established an expectation for serious critical thinking. Ralph’s sincere interest in students’ ideas and his uncanny ability to stay in touch with students’ feelings and concerns made his classroom at once rigorous and comfortable. Ralph took deep interest in the personal development of students and encouraged them to stretch beyond themselves intellectually. He was dedicated to contextualizing learning at George School by locating it within the broader intellectual world and understood that teaching and learning is a moral endeavor that inspires intellectual and moral excellence.

“Paul has faith in his students. He teaches, he coaches, he encourages, he inspires. Soon his conviction becomes their confidence, their willingness to work hard and take risks,” shared Debbie DiMicco ’72, a fellow alum, teacher, and coach. Read more.

Paul was committed to stimulating students’ mathematical imaginations and curiosity and motivated them to think deeply and independently about the beauty of mathematical problem-solving processes, which were more important to him than ultimate answers. Through masterful class facilitation and careful listening to the way in which students arrived at their answers, he had a talent for affirming students by identifying correct pieces of their analyses and getting them to share with classmates. Paul would tell you that he has taught students, not math. And he taught them to take responsibility for their learning. Whenever he was teaching, his deep love of learning, and of history, literature, and language became contagious. His playful intellectual spirit of genuine inquiry imbued his lessons, as tales of Guy Fawkes, the Oklahoma Land Rush, the Battle of Hastings, and Heffalumps accompanied mathematical explorations.

At the end of the evening, a quote from Carl Jung came to mind. “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Thank you Terry, Ralph, and Paul.

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