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04-23-2015

Three to Receive Clarkson University Inspirational High School Educator Award

Three teachers nominated by Clarkson University seniors will be honored as the 2015 Clarkson University Inspirational High School Educators.

Commencement 2014The award recognizes these educators for their lasting impact on their students and in their fields of education.

Caroline Muthoni Gitaari of Meru, Kenya, a biology, chemistry and Christian religion teacher at Chuka Girls High School in Meru was nominated by former student Joanina Gicobi of Meru, a senior biology and psychology major at Clarkson.

Gicobi said her teacher deserves this award for her selfless dedication to providing an education for students who could not afford it, including paying for elementary school and exam review materials. Gitaari has opened an elementary education center for children in need and hosted Clarkson students and faculty during their visits to East Africa. "Through your support, I have soared up from a young girl to a brilliant young woman with goals aimed at making the world a better place," Gicobi said. "I am forever grateful for your mentorship, encouragement and everything else that you have done to ensure that my education goes well."

Suzanne Pietropaolo of Syracuse, N.Y., a French teacher at Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School in Syracuse, was nominated by former student Daniel Horn of North Syracuse, a senior chemical engineering major.

Horn said Pietropaolo earned the award for her passion for providing the best possible education for her students and her ability to encourage her students to constantly improve themselves and live life to the fullest after winning her battle against cancer. He said throughout his time at Bishop Ludden, he always knew Pietropaolo truly cared about his well-being and academic success. "Mrs. P. always encouraged me to get involved and work hard to make positive, lasting changes," Horn said. "This advice has directly impacted my time at Clarkson because I have spent the past four years getting involved in various organizations and working to improve student life and student-faculty-administration relations."

Roberta Steponaitis of Vergennes, Vt., a social studies and history teacher at Vergennes Union High school in Vergennes was nominated by former student Nathan North of Vergennes, a senior mechanical engineering major.

North said he nominated Steponaitis for this award because of her tireless drive to help students in her classes master their material. He said Steponaitis spent many hours after school on her own time in order to help North and other students excel in their classes, get into college or simply listen if they needed someone to talk to.

"She saw potential in me and wanted to help me see that as well," North said. "After meeting her in my sophomore year of high school, she became my personal speech coach -- spending hours with me after school, showing me how to project my voice, deliver a speech without nervous tics and become comfortable speaking to crowd containing thousands of people. This has given me a certain confidence that I never had before."

The educators will be honored on campus at a special awards dinner on May 8 and then again during the commencement ceremony on the following day.

"This award is an opportunity for our graduating seniors to recognize a high school educator who has had a significant impact on their educational experience," said Vice President for Student Affairs and International Relations, Kathryn B. Johnson. "We want to celebrate these educators who have made a lifelong impression on their students by challenging and supporting them to achieve their goals."

Each year, Clarkson asks its seniors to nominate the secondary school educators who have significantly affected their lives and helped guide their higher education and career decisions.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University students and their families and friends attend Commencement in 2014. This year three teachers nominated by seniors will be honored as the 2015 Clarkson University Inspirational High School Educators.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://clarkson.edu/news/photos/commencement-class-2014.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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