About the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards
Each year at Commencement, Amherst College presents the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards to three outstanding secondary school teachers who challenged, inspired, and moved members of the graduating class. The awards are named for the first president of the College and his wife. Amherst has presented the awards since 1997.
Neyda A. Borges
Miami Lakes Educational Center
Miami Lakes, Florida
Nominated by Daylin Delgado ’22
“Wonder Woman, General Leia Organa, and Hermione Granger, complete with strength, wisdom, and grace”—this is how Daylin Delgado ’22, who graduates today with a double major in psychology and law, jurisprudence and social thought, describes her high school English and journalism teacher, Neyda Borges.
Borges pushes her students beyond their comfort zone because she sees their “potential to be greater.” That’s how she was able to nudge the once-shy Delgado to take on increasingly challenging journalistic assignments and inspire her to pursue her goals with heightened focus and ambition. “Eventually, I realized she saw my potential to be a leader both in the classroom and outside of the classroom,” Delgado notes. Borges encouraged Delgado to expand her talents and cultivate “the mindset that I can solve any issue through critical analysis and a level head.” She also reminded her students that each day “is the only day like that day that we would ever have. So, make it count!” From her initial decision to focus on the journalism track in high school to her decision to apply to Amherst College, Borges’ support and encouragement galvanized Delgado to always act with confidence, courage, and compassion—and to become the person she is today.
Lourdes Secondary School
Nominated by Matthew McShane ’22
In Matthew McShane ’22’s academically underperforming inner-city public school in Glasgow, Scotland, many teachers set low academic standards for their predominantly working-class students. However, English teacher Michael Peck did the opposite: He challenged students at every turn, with demanding reading and assignments and lively classroom discussions. In the process, Peck inspired in them a lifelong love not only of literature, but of learning itself. “He believed in the capacity of every one of his students to outgrow what some might consider their potential,” notes McShane, who graduates today with a double major in economics and history.
In Peck’s inclusive advanced classes, students were encouraged to be intellectually curious and collaborative as they discovered and developed their own opinions. His emphasis on students’ development of their own voices was “a key reason why I felt so comfortable in transitioning to the learning environment at Amherst,” reports McShane. In laughter-filled classes that occasionally featured the teacher’s live DJ performances, complete with turntables, Peck nurtured McShane’s academic confidence and fostered his trust in his own ambition. He has inspired McShane to strive to do the same for others as a tutor for college applicants from under-resourced public schools.
Fort Lee High School
Fort Lee, New Jersey
Nominated by Sebastian Son ’22
English and music major Sebastian Son ’22 first encountered Adrian Rodriguez at a middle school assembly about Fort Lee High School’s new International Baccalaureate (IB) program. “If you want to learn, if you love learning and want to follow a rigorous curriculum designed to stimulate you as a student—I know of no better program,” Rodriguez asserted. Thirteen-year-old Son resolved to do whatever it took to participate in this marvelous academic experience.
Rodriguez’s IB classroom turned out to be all Son had hoped for and more. Rodriguez was a demanding teacher. He had high standards, and the reading lists were daunting, but class with him was utterly captivating. “Here was a man who did not just know what questions were on the AP exam. Here was a man who cared deeply about his students understanding the greater forces at play in history and the patterns that repeat themselves,” Son recalls. Prone to filling the board with nearly indecipherable diagrams and notes, Rodriguez was charismatic, with a biting wit and no tolerance for halfhearted answers. He exhorted his students to engage deeply and passionately with what they were learning. Writes Son, “I wouldn’t be where I am without Mr. Rodriguez.”