North High Teacher Receives Olmsted Award

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Jeffrey Gilden (center) receives the Olmsted Prize from Williams College Dean Sarah Bolton as Alex Paseltiner, Williams College and North High graduate, who nominated Gilden, looks on.
Jeffrey Gilden (center) receives the Olmsted Prize from Williams College Dean Sarah Bolton as Alex Paseltiner, Williams College and North High graduate, who nominated Gilden, looks on.

Jeffrey Gilden, North High School English teacher, is one of this year’s four outstanding high school teachers to receive the prestigious Williams College George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching.

Each year, Williams seniors nominate high school teachers who have played influential roles in their lives and learning. Alex Paseltiner, North High Class of 2012, nominated Gilden and credits him with his decision to major in English at Williams. “Mr. Gilden’s class represented the first time I received genuine feedback on my work…his expectations for us were astronomical; the level of effort he asked us to put into something as simple as reading was incredible for a high school course,” Alex said. “By believing in us and encouraging us to think critically, in unfamiliar ways, about monumental texts, Mr. Gilden was always able to bring our work up to the level of his standards.”

Gilden has been a teacher at North High since 1995, teaching English, Advanced Placement English and Creative Writing. He is also the English teacher for STAGES, an interdisciplinary program that culminates in the conception, writing and performance of a full-length musical. Alex had Gilden for each of these classes while at North. Gilden was influential in revamping the English department curriculum and redesigning many of its courses. Principal Bernard Kaplan calls Gilden a “magical teacher who combines a profound understanding and knowledge of art, literature, theater and music with a profound understanding of young people in order to inspire teaching and learning.”

Gilden said, “The classroom isn’t only about literature lessons or grammar or even about intellectual pursuits and growth. My philosophy is that being aware of the multiple ways in which students respond to their teachers is more important than anything.”

Recipients of the Olmsted award were hosted by Williams (located in Williamstown, MA) for the entire graduation weekend. Each winner received $3,000, with an additional $5,000 given to each recipient’s school. The Olmsted Prize was established in 1976 with an endowment from the estates of George Olmsted Jr. and his wife, Frances.

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