History teacher Susan Wilkins wins Meserve award

The Newtonite

by Amanda Hills

Meserve award recipients “possess a love for teaching, a strong content knowledge, a high level of professionalism and an understanding of kids,” according to history teacher Anthony Patelis. Patelis sees all of those qualities in this year’s Meserve winner history teacher Susan Wilkins.

Patelis said, “Our whole department respects Ms. Wilkins. Her presence adds a dignity to our department that can’t be described.”

Patelis added that he admires Wilkins’ methods, noting that “when I ask Ms. Wilkins how she would go about teaching something, I always come away with the feeling that her method is the way to go.” He describes her as “the ultimate teacher” in terms of method.

Wilkins said she aims to create a comforting environment in her classroom while also maintaining high standards so her students feel challenged. She feels that a hard-earned A in her class will “build students’ self-esteem,” and that a good grade is more rewarding when a student feels that he or she has truly worked for it.

“The greatest reward of teaching is when a student lets me know that I have helped him or her in some way,” Wilkins said.

In fact, she even keeps a file folder labeled “Nice Notes,” which holds every “thank you” card or note she has ever received.

Wilkins said, “To know that I have had a positive impact on a student is an amazing feeling.”

History department head Jonathan Bassett said that Wilkins has served the history department in many ways.

“She has been a mentor to new teachers and has worked with student teachers in her capacity as a faculty member of the Newton Teacher Residency, Newton’s own teacher education program,” Bassett said. “She is a valuable voice in departmental discussions of curriculum and policy, and we can always count on her to provide thoughtful and candid input on ideas we are considering.”

Bassett described Wilkins’ teaching style as “quiet and understated.”

“It draws students in and gives them the opportunity to really think about the material.”

Wilkins attended Harvard University. During her senior year, she received a teaching fellowship at Bryanston School in Blandford, England. She then went on to teach at Georgetown Day High School in Washington, D.C. Not yet ready to commit to a teaching career, Wilkins spent a year in Chicago working as a marketing consultant, she said. After this, Wilkins said it was clear that teaching was her passion.

“I quickly realized that teaching was much more interesting, challenging and fulfilling, and I knew that I never would be bored in the profession,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins has worked at this school for nearly ten years, and she said that she has enjoyed being part of this school’s community. “When I started working here, I felt I was the luckiest person to have landed this job, and I still feel that way. My colleagues are intelligent, dedicated and accomplished individuals who make working here a delight each and every day,” she said.