December 10, 2019
After receiving one of the inaugural Renjen Prize for Teaching Excellence awards, upper school science teacher Dr. Veronica Ledoux utilized the funding to travel to South Africa where she volunteered with Teachers Across Borders over the summer.
Since 2001, Teachers Across Borders has made it possible for U.S. educators to travel to rural communities in South Africa to conduct math and science workshops with teaching colleagues to combat the legacy of apartheid.
Ledoux was fortunate to both take part in the workshops and connect with educators in their schools. After she returned from the experience, Ledoux reflected on how the workshops impacted both those who attended—many of whom traveled long distances to participate—and herself.
Ledoux shared how one workshop attendee initially planned on taking part in only the first session, assuming she wouldn’t get much from the experience. That same attendee shared that by the end of the week the workshop had inspired her to start her own school. Another example Ledoux shared was how attendees were able to collectively share their challenges with teaching human reproduction because of the cultural taboos surrounding the subject.
Personally, Ledoux was inspired by the diligence and focus of the students with whom she interacted. “Every notebook was painstakingly detailed, tidier than anything I’ve ever written, and their unfettered glee in using simple materials to do experiments, build circuits, and run a genetics simulation was not something that one often sees in a science classroom,” said Ledoux. “Their desire to get involved with science and understand what they were doing shows why this type of work matters.”
The Renjen Fund was established by Punit and Heather Renjen in 2018 to honor teachers who exemplify Catlin Gabel’s mission of providing students with a hands-on, student-focused education and to provide the selected teachers with a professional development stipend of $1,630 to take their talents beyond the borders of the school. The secondary recipient of the inaugural award, Dr. Guimin Tang, who teaches Mandarin in Catlin Gabel’s lower school, is planning to take advantage of the funding awarded to him in the coming months.