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.
L.E. Hartmann, history teacher
The Nightingale-Bamford School, New York, New York
Nominated by Megan Yang ’20
“I often wonder where my life trajectory would have taken me if Dr. Hartmann had not led me to believe, nearly a decade ago, in the power of my own voice,” wrote Megan Yang ’20 in nominating L.E. Hartmann for a Swift Moore Award. Her Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher “would pull me aside after class and leave extensive comments on my writing assignments, letting me know that my ideas and thoughts were valuable and deserved to be heard by others.” At the all-girls Nightingale-Bamford School, Hartmann emphasized society’s need for assertive and eloquent leadership by women. In that spirit, she founded, chaperoned and often personally funded the school’s debate team.
“Moreover, her own eloquence in the classroom was unparalleled: she had a reputation for bringing history to life through her captivating lectures,” Yang wrote. “Dr. Hartmann devoted entire units to the experience of various marginalized groups in the United States, making sure she found the primary sources and material to tell history from a diverse set of perspectives, even though such extensive knowledge was not required for the AP exam.”
Hartmann kept in touch with Yang through her years at Amherst, where she was active in the debate society and majored in philosophy and Asian languages and civilizations.
Matthew Laufer, English teacher
Francis W. Parker School, Chicago, Illinois
Nominated by Emma Swislow ’20
Emma Swislow ’20 read her first Emily Dickinson poem in Matthew Laufer’s English class; she went on to major in English (as well as geology) at Amherst and to write a senior thesis about Dickinson. Laufer gave Swislow life-changing guidance about getting organized and proceeding with confidence as an editor of the Francis W. Parker School’s newspaper; she later stepped up as editor-in-chief of The Amherst Student. “Mr. Laufer was known for using the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Extra Fine Tip Pen in blue ink. So many students associated ‘the gradeslayer’ with him,” she wrote. “Now, the only pen I will use is ‘the gradeslayer.’”
Swislow’s nomination of her influential teacher also cites his leadership of a school community service program that worked with local veterans, his willingness to “go to bat” for the student newspaper editors in negotiations with the administration, and the advice he gave her about choosing a college. “From Mr. Laufer, I learned how to love the study of English, how to read closely, how to think, how to lead, how to write,” she wrote. “He is an incredible teacher but, more importantly, an incredible person.”
Sarabeth Morgan, gifted facilitator
Deerfield and Woodlawn Elementary Schools, Lawrence, Kansas
Nominated by Mikayla Ybarra-Young ’20
According to Mikayla (Maki) Ybarra-Young ’20, Sarabeth Morgan “has always exemplified Terras Irradient and enlightened the lives of all she’s mentored.” Morgan was Ybarra-Young’s teacher in the Talented and Gifted program at Bonner Springs High School in Bonner Springs, Kansas. “Anything that we expressed interest in, she encouraged us to dive deeper, to learn all that we could,” Ybarra-Young wrote. “Every time Morgan saw us light up at a new subject or idea, she’d say: ‘Run with it!’ She provided us the tools to fan sparks of inspiration into blazing torches, leading us to brighter futures.”
Her students knew that they could turn to “Momma Morgan” for support. Ybarra-Young’s nomination describes how, after a former student experienced a traumatic brain injury, Morgan set up a plan that enabled him to earn his GED and acceptance to college. During an anxious period when Ybarra-Young was awaiting acceptance to Amherst, her former teacher—who had moved on to another school—drove back to Bonner Springs to deliver her “a small card with a simple mantra about calming down,” Ybarra-Young wrote. “Whenever I’ve gone through hardships while at Amherst, I look at that little card taped to my mirror.” Ybarra-Young graduated with a degree in theater and dance.