Mrs. Bernstein recognized by Harvard - Distinguished Teacher of 2011

  • Congratulations to Kathryn Bernstein, Mrs. Bernstein has been named a "Distinguished Teacher of 2011" by the Harvard Club of Long Island. One of a dozen teachers from across Long Island to receive this award — from across the 120 school districts on Long Island — Mrs. Bernstein will be honored at the Harvard Club’s annual University Relations Lunch on March 27.


    “These Distinguished Teacher Awards honor extraordinary people,” explained Dr. Judith Esterquest, a board member of the Long Island club. “In our national conversation about where America should make investments, we on Long Island need to remind ourselves of the importance of recognizing and supporting our teachers like these — teachers who continue to influence our lives for decades after we sat in their classrooms.”


    “Talented teachers like Mrs. Bernstein expend uncounted hours and vast stores of energy to transform the lives of our Long Island teens,” continued Dr. Esterquest. “Day after day and year after year, they help shape our country’s future, inspiring students to dream big dreams, to work to accomplish those dreams, and to think rigorously about what they want their future to be. Their labor is a precious public good."


    Mrs. Bernstein, who has taught math at Sayville High School since 1975, attended SUNY Stony Brook, Boston University, and New York University. In addition to being an exemplar teacher, Mrs. Bernstein lays claim to being a "horrible skier," an avid reader, and someone who "tries to play golf." The little spare time she has is taken up being a devoted grandmother to her new grandson, Max, who is her absolutely favorite relative. Mrs. Bernstein never hesitates to tell you how very much she loves her job and that, professionally speaking, she is "the luckiest person in the world!"


    Julie MacDonell, Class of 2010 Salutatorian, who is now a member of the Harvard College Class of 2014, nominated Mrs. Bernstein for this award, saying, “Mrs. Bernstein is an amazing teacher who not only can produce results, but also inspires and challenges her students to formulate concepts rather than just learning mechanics.” Ms. MacDonell vividly remembers, “flamboyant hand motions to illustrate graphic solutions to polynomial equations and repetition of clever phrases (e.g., “chump change”).” 


    “It was not until I was well into my first semester of college math,” Ms. MacDonell explained, “that I realized how integral Mrs. Bernstein’s coined terms were to my understanding of calculus.” Meeting with Harvard classmates to review math problem sets, “quite often I found myself spouting her sayings,” she continued, “and after the initial stares of bewilderment, I would proceed to explain the concept of 'chump change,' a much simpler (and more fun!) explanation of the ratio test for the convergence of a series.”


    Ms. MacDonell credits Mrs. Bernstein’s ability to find creative ways to make math concepts memorable, along with the clarity of her explanations, for the success of her many students, noting her “AP Calculus students score impressively year after year even, on a few occasions, achieving the extraordinary feat of 100% of students scoring 5’s.”


    Reflecting on how much Mrs. Bernstein and other Sayville teachers influenced her, Ms. MacDonell commented on “how instrumental they were, not only in helping me gain admittance to Harvard, but also in helping me to confidently embrace the rigor of its academic demands.”


    At the March 27th ceremony the HCLI will announce the Distinguished Teachers of 2011 who will also receive scholarships for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, MA. While some past winners of this scholarship have chosen to attend a short program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, others have enjoyed a customized visit focused on subject matter they love, sampling some of the wealth of resources available to Harvard students — meeting with faculty; visiting labs, library archives, specialty museums; enjoying visual and performance art. 


    When she learned of this award, Dr. Geraldine Sullivan Keck, Deputy Superintendent of Schools, showed immediate enthusiasm: “Kathy Bernstein is the kind of teacher that all of us in education strive to be and the kind of teacher that every parent hopes their child will encounter in their educational journey. Her passion and commitment to the educational success of every student in her charge is exceptional,” she added. “Whether an AP or Inclusion student, each young person can be guaranteed the very best from Kathy. She believes in each of them.”


    “She is, indeed, a teacher’s teacher,” Dr. Sullivan Keck, continued. “Her unmitigated delight in the profession of teaching, and the professionalism with which she embraces this calling, has made her an inspiration not only to students, but to the colleagues whom she serves as Math Chairperson.” 

    “Kathy never seeks to have the spotlight shine on her,” the Deputy Superintendent noted. “Rather, as an exemplary leader, she shines the light of credit on those around her. As an administrator working with Kathy, I am often in awe of her knowledge, humor, understanding, and deep commitment to all who have the privilege of crossing her path.”


    “I am a better educator for having known her,” Dr. Sullivan Keck concluded. “I dare say that the teachers she has mentored over the years would say the same. She is one of those teachers one never forgets.”


    The scholarships are funded by contributions from Harvard alumni living on Long Island. “We on Long Island benefit because teachers like these transform the lives of our children,” added Aileen Jacobson, President of the Harvard Club. “It is our privilege to honor them.”


    Besides Mrs. Bernstein, Sayville high school physics teacher Louis Gittler received a letter from the Harvard Club of Long Island recognizing his superb teaching, while guidance counselor Tim Dillon received a letter noting his extraordinary commitment to students and his ability to communicate life lessons in ways that continue to benefit his students, even years later.


    The fourteen Distinguished Teacher Award winners were nominated by current Harvard students and then selected by members of the Harvard Club. This year’s award winners teach English, math, science, languages, and history. A few teach at schools that often have four or more former students at Harvard; others teach at schools that have sent only a couple in twenty years. This year’s honorees teach in Bellmore-Merrick, Cold Spring Harbor, Commack, Deer Park, East Islip Middle School, Great Neck, Jericho, Roslyn, Sayville, Seaford, St. Anthony’s in Huntington, and Ward Melville HS and Gelinas Junior HS in the Three Villages.


    "Over the past twenty years, Harvard has accepted students from more than two-thirds of the approximately 120 school districts on Long Island," said Carolyn Hughes, who chairs the HCLI Schools & Scholarships Committee, which ensures every Long Island applicant to Harvard gets a personal alumni interview.  "In the past five years, Harvard has accepted students from more than half of these districts,” Mrs. Hughes continued, “offering admission without regard for financial need and offering financial aid to families with incomes up to $180,000. Because of this reach, our diverse undergraduates lead us to select award winners who truly reflect the diversity of Long Island and our extraordinary Long Island teachers.”


    The Harvard Club of Long Island website is year Harvard College received 35,000 applications nationally (not quite 700 from Long Island) and will accept under 2,200, that is, about 6%. There are approximately 150 undergraduates from Long Island currently at Harvard College.


    Following the award ceremony, Dr. Peter Galison, Harvard University’s Pelligrino University Professor of the History of Science, will give a short lecture on “Secrecy in the Age of WikiLeaks.” ??Author of both specialized and popular books, including Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps, Professor Galison has been studying the nature of secrecy for decades, asking “What are secrets and how have they changed over time? What relation do they have to the shifting technologies of information and weaponry—and what does the Wikileaks controversy tell us about where we are headed?”


Mrs. Bernstein selected as a Harvard Club of Long Island Fellow
Mrs. Kathy Bernstein with Judy Esterquest and Dr. Eric Eversley,
Mrs. Kathy Bernstein  with Dr. Geri Sullivan Keck, Dr. Walter Schartner, and Aileen Jacobson
Mrs. Kathy Bernstein  with the three other Fellows: Betsy Siegelbaum, Serena McCalla, and Gary Vor