Teacher Wins Prize for Teaching Excellence

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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Deron Bayer, history teacher, theater director and head football coach of Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT, has won the first annual James C. Kapteyn Prize.

The James C. Kapteyn Prize was established in 2009 as a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to honor the memory of the late James C. Kapteyn, a celebrated and beloved teacher of Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA. This annual $5,000 prize is awarded to a secondary school educator who exemplifies excellence in “whole child teaching,” serving in multiple capacities within a school community, either public or private.

The fund was established in honor of James C. Kapteyn who dedicated his life as a secondary school teacher to embodying the idea that, in the words of William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” Kapteyn passed away on January 16, 2007 at age 45 while playing indoor soccer with friends and colleagues from Deerfield Academy, his alma mater, where for seven years he had taught English, served as the sophomore class dean, coached girls varsity soccer and boys varsity lacrosse, and lived in a boys’ dormitory with his family.

After Kapteyn’s untimely death, his best friend since childhood, Adam Reeves, approached the Kapteyn family about creating a prize that would honor him and keep his legacy alive by awarding an annual prize to an outstanding secondary school teacher. They established a relationship with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation who developed guidelines and distributed application forms throughout the region, which includes Berkshire and Franklin counties, MA; Columbia County and Northeast Dutchess counties, New York; and Northwest Litchfield County, CT. A prize selection committee, comprised of three members from the Kapteyn Prize Board of Directors and four secondary school educators, were each given copies of the applications to review, each of which included references from the respective head of school, a colleague and a former student, as well as an essay entitled “Why I Teach” written by each prize applicant.

“We are pleased to be able to have chosen from such a fine field of educators,” said Molly Boxer, one of Kapteyn’s five sisters, a member of the selection committee and a former schoolteacher. “We feel Deron Bayer best exemplifies the spirit of the Kapteyn Prize. He is committed to the academic, physical, personal and moral growth of all of his students and is as dedicated in his history classroom as he is on the football field.”

Deron Bayer recently completed his twelfth year at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT. He teaches predominately European History, but has also taught Non-Western culture, US History and Civics. In addition, he has directed theatrical productions at the school and he serves as head football coach. Bayer says, “I am honored and humbled to be the recipient of the Kapteyn Prize. No one can win an award such as this by themselves. The countless hours that the staff of this school puts in is truly awe inspiring.” He plans to put his prize money toward upgrading the school’s athletic fields seating area. “Currently, we have sets of portable bleachers,” he says, “I envision poured concrete seats that would accommodate handicapped visitors.”

The next deadline for the Kapteyn Prize is April 1, 2010.  Application forms are available online at www.berkshiretaconic.org/grantseekers or by calling 413.528.8039. The Kapteyn Prize is an endowment of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation builds stronger communities and improves the quality of life for all residents of Berkshire County, MA; Columbia County and northeast Dutchess County, NY; and northwest Litchfield County, CT. Thanks to its generous donors, in 2008 Berkshire Taconic distributed nearly $9 million in scholarships and grants for programs in the arts and education, health and human services, and environmental protection. Berkshire Taconic is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.
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