2012 Teaching Tolerance Award Winners


Every year, Teaching Tolerance hears from teachers who are going the extra mile to support students from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. These teachers deserve to be recognized—which is why we created the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching. 

On Jan. 25, this year’s five winners will receive their awards—and $1000 apiece—at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. And you can watch! Edweek Teacher will livestream the event starting at 2p.m. EST. Click here to get all the details.

The winners of the 2012 Teaching Tolerance Award are as diverse as their schools and students, but all of them reach out to families and value home culture. All of them see students as individuals with valuable lived-experiences. And all of them empower their students to be successful members of our diverse society.

Our congratulations go out to this year’s winners!

Robert P. Sautter
Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School (Kindergarten), San Francisco, Calif.
Sautter believes he has achieved the highest success when a student develops a strong sense of self-efficacy. “Creating a bond of trust is key in building relationships with my students of diverse backgrounds,” says
Sautter. He begins each school day with a “community circle” in which students greet each other using their home languages and implements a partnership plan with parents so they can share their goals for their children. “When I am shown the family photos, I listen attentively to the stories told,” says Sautter. “When I am offered dinner, I accept and participate in family customs—and I learn.”


Anna E. Baldwin
Arlee High School, Arlee, Mont.
Baldwin teaches English, composition and speech, and multicultural literature on the Flathead Indian Reservation. About 70 percent of her students are of tribal descent, but she never makes generalizations about her students’ backgrounds. “Culture emanates from more than ethnicity,” says Baldwin. “There is teen culture, home culture, as well as traditional culture.
So, I use [texts] that appeal to students’ interests, backgrounds and abilities.”  Her hope is that through “earnest discussion about things that matter, provocative assignments and texts, and supportive and honest relationships, students will leave [the] classroom with a better sense of themselves, their world and their place in it.”


Laurence Tan
122nd Street Elementary School (5th Grade), Los Angeles, Calif.
Five pillars of learning inform Tan’s teaching—engage, educate, experience, empower and enact. He values each student’s identity and celebrates diversity, even asking families to share their expertise with students through mini-lessons. At the end of the year he hosts a parent appreciation night where he and his students acknowledge the important role families play in their children’s educational success. Tan says his students succeed academically—and he accomplishes this by using a social justice curriculum. “The development of youth into socially critical and responsible individuals is of the highest importance,” says Tan.


Lhisa R. Almashy
Park Vista High School, Lake Worth, Fla.
 “Teaching is the best profession,” says Almashy. “Because our ‘products’ are human beings and we can be part of the vast resources they bring with them.” Almashy teaches ESL to 9th, 10th and 12th graders. Her key to success with English language learners is to teach them to integrate their home and school lives by taking the best from both cultures.  “I learn about my students’ values and experiences from their homes and communities by being
involved not only in their education, but in their lives.” Through celebrating her students’ lived experiences, she steps beyond the stereotypes and generalizations to understand each individual student.


Darnell Fine
Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Middle School, Atlanta, Ga.
As a child, Fine’s household was labeled “chaotic,” and Fine himself “a behavior problem.” Today, his past struggles motivate him to “build on the knowledge students bring from home … [and] emphasize meaningful connections to real-life contexts” in his classroom.  In addition to serving on his school’s diversity committee, Fine makes a point of building relationships with families. He acknowledges the value of his students’ home cultures by hosting open forums, town hall meetings and Socratic seminars. “In my classroom,” says Fine, “inclusion isn’t limited to celebrating cultural differences… [I provide] spaces for [students] to express their multiple perspectives.”


It's amazing how he takes the

Submitted by Kirkland Babin on 5 September 2013 - 5:51pm.

It's amazing how he takes the time to learn about each and every other student that's in his class even though he doesn't have to. That says a lot.

Imagine how surprised I was

Submitted by Teresa Secules on 3 April 2013 - 9:15am.

Imagine how surprised I was to scroll down to Darrell Fine’s discussion about his school, only to realize that it is in the same building where my son attended elementary school in the mid 80’s. We transferred him to another school after two years because he was having very frequent stomachaches and headaches. Upon talking with his teacher, we had found a distinct lack of respect, not only for him but for the neighborhood children in general. It is wonderful to hear that this school culture has been turned around so dramatically. I applaud Mr. Fine’s work.

Now a teacher educator myself, I appreciate the work that all the honorees are doing, and will share these videos with my students.

I enjoyed watching all of

Submitted by Greer Hartman on 5 September 2013 - 11:49am.

I enjoyed watching all of their different teaching styles. I personally loved the first video the best because he seemed like he got to really know his students on a personal level and that just started all by just greeting them individually at the door and saying "Today is going to be a good day!"

I was touched by the level of

Submitted by Shirley Jernigan Ferrell on 12 January 2013 - 12:24am.

I was touched by the level of dedication that your honorees display; however, this is truly what excellent teachers will do to make an indelible mark on the lives of their students.

Reading their comments was

Submitted by Ann Siegel on 16 January 2013 - 10:41am.

Reading their comments was heartening. The emphasis and focus on the students humanity as opposed to a test score is most telling and I could only wish it would radically alter the prevelant approach to learning which approaches repair of a computer program.