Dorsey, Kuhn, and Yan win Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards

Sara Dorsey, Kate Kuhn, and Yiping Yan

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation of Western Massachusetts awards over 100 Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards each year, and among this year’s winners are science teacher Sara Dorsey, English teacher Kate Kuhn, and Chinese teacher Yiping Yan. 

The award honors teachers’ commitment to their profession and their students, and seeks to “motivate teachers at all stages of their careers to aspire to excellence.” Along with recognition from the community, winners of this award also receive a payment of $250, an invitation to a banquet in May, a free college class, and even a membership to a local YMCA. 

Sara Dorsey has been a member of the science department for three years, teaching ninth grade ecology and AP Environmental Science. She was also a student teacher with science teacher Nat Woodruff for one year before that. Dorsey worked for an outdoor education organization before getting her graduate degree at UMass Amherst and becoming a teacher.

In a profile of Dorsey previously published in The Graphic, she said that her love of the outdoors goes hand in hand with her love of science and she likes how “science combines many different aspects of learning.” She added that she was lucky to have “had a science teacher who would have us do lab reports that involved quantitative skills, writing, and drawing.”

Kuhn has been a member of the English department since 2016 and teaches Tenth Grade Literature, Writing, and Public Speaking and 11th and 12th grade Contemporary Literature. She played lacrosse in college which strengthened her love of the process of learning. Kuhn is always trying to improve the way she teaches, and when something doesn’t work, she “tweaks it.”

Kuhn said she appreciated being rewarded for “the hours and care I put into this job.” While the award was on her radar, she mentioned it was never a goal to win. “When you teach, you do what you do,” she said. “Teaching is a job that stays with you even when you go home.”

Yan has been a Chinese teacher at ARHS since 2003, working to transition students from Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley into our curriculum. One of her biggest accomplishments in her career so far was creating a course in 2017 called Chinese Culture and Literature that doesn’t just focus on the Chinese language, but also on the history and culture of her homeland. 

Each recipient of the award gets to propose an idea and plan for a new education project. Yan already knows what she wants to do. “An idea I had is to have a field trip to The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Ma to visit the traditional Chinese house,” she said. “I’d also like to write a grant to purchase tickets to visit Chinatown in Boston.” 

Kuhn’s idea for an education project is to “get funds to pay for bringing in contemporary poets on a Zoom call to talk to a class.” Kuhn has brought in authors before, and students felt like it was a great way to understand a book better. Her other idea is to purchase a new text for her Contemporary Literature class.

Dorsey, Kuhn, and Yan found out about their nominations at a faculty meeting after school and were celebrated by their co-workers.

Sometimes we can’t see the good we do for this world, and acknowledgment is a key ingredient to keep us moving forward. Hats off to these ARHS teachers for their recognition.