Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

2023 Upper School Department Awards

2023 Upper School Department Awards

On Monday evening Department Awards were presented to a group of Upper School students. 

The Music Award is presented to a senior who has contributed to the growth and success of the program through the highest proficiency and involvement in the classroom and in performance and by seeking constantly to expand their knowledge of music.

This year’s recipient of the Music Award embodies GFA’s core values. She is passionate, she has demonstrated integrity, she is empathetic, wonderfully curious and has achieved excellence. She has supported the Performing Arts Department through her work on stage and in the classroom. Her achievements as a musician and scholar stem from her extraordinary talent and tireless work ethic. One must only watch her on stage to witness the joy she gets from singing, and acting and the love she has for making music and her cello. This year’s Music Award was presented to Elizabeth Jones

The Theatre Award is presented to a senior for superior dedication, involvement and commitment to the theatre program at Greens Farms Academy

This year's recipient for the Theatre Award is a four year member of the theatre community at GFA, having participated in both productions and classes during their time here. They have appeared both backstage and onstage, and truly embody the idea of “whatever it takes, the show must go on.” They consistently embody GFA’s core values, through their passion for the art, empathy towards their fellow cast and crew members, and curiosity to always know more about every element of theatre. Their desire to always achieve excellence comes through in everything they do, and the department has been made stronger because of their presence. This year's Theatre Award was presented to Chang

The Computer Science, Engineering and Design Award is presented to a senior whose devotion to the research and design process made significant contributions to the growth of the department.

This year’s award goes to a founding member of GFA’s coding club, who prepared her fellow classmates for competitions, sharing and attempting practice problems on subjects that stretched beyond the school’s computer science curriculum. She was drawn to the urgency of social justice problems in the field, focusing her research on racial diversity in facial recognition technologies. There was a period this spring when she had to work with large datasets, and the processing challenges were convoluted enough to test anyone’s patience. She brought a steady energy to the task at hand: when a solution did not readily present itself, she confronted the challenge with her signature methodical persistence. While she stood out as an individual student, she worked to continually fold herself into the efforts of her academic community, offering her intelligence and enthusiasm to her classmates through her feedback and encouragement. She has made our department stronger through her efforts, and we are so lucky to have worked with her. The Computer Science, Engineering, and Design Award goes to Zoma Tessema. 

Presented annually to the 12th grade female who best exemplifies the high ideals of good sportsmanship as they pursue excellence in athletics, the Marijane Beltz Sportsmanship Award is awarded to a paragon of the values that GFA Athletics holds above all and one who made every team better because of her present: Analise Trani.

Presented annually to the 12th grade male who best exemplifies the high ideals of good sportsmanship as they pursue excellence in athletics, the David M. Perry Sportsmanship Award is awarded to an athlete whose effort, skill, and unyielding respect for the team, his opponents, and the game made us proud to know him: Charles LaFreniere. 

Presented annually to the 12th grade female who exhibited superior skills in athletics, the Barbara Hellwig Rose Outstanding Athlete Award is awarded to the consummate teammate, a model community member, a superlative athlete, and a champion in so many ways: Lane Durkin.

Presented annually to the 12th grade male who exhibited superior skills in athletics, The Edward J. Denes Award is awarded to a leader of his peers whose ability and integrity demanded singular respect from his teammates and coaches: Matvey Timashev.

The Creative Writing Award is presented to a junior or senior who has demonstrated excellence in creative writing, developed a love for the written word and shared this love with the school community and/or the world at large. This year, the English department will give the creative writing award to two students. 

In an appreciation of the poet Frank O’Hara, writer Ada Calhoun notes the centrality of O’Hara’s compelling and inimitable voice, which is driven by both an “intoxicating swagger” and a “deep delightedness.” That voice, which is “just so funny,” reveals a “tremendous belief in the value of one person honestly encountering another.” Fiona Burton’s voice doesn’t sound exactly like Frank O’Hara’s, but it is equally alive and strange and authentic, a dazzling highwire act in which, fifty stories up, she steps confidently over the abyss, juggling her subconscious, her unconscious, her conscience, the voices in her head, her fierce moral sense, her dreams, and all the beautiful and terrible facts of the fallen world. In her poetry, in her stories and essays and screenplays, in her evangelizing, humanizing, and community-building work for Penumbra and The Beachside Press, Fiona manages both to sound just like herself and to help us see things fresh. To paraphrase Calhoun on O’Hara, Fiona loves the world so much that seeing it through her eyes makes us love the world, too. GFA’s English Department is proud to announce this year’s winner of the Creative Writing Award, the distinctive, hilarious, irreplaceable, and inimitable Fiona Burton.

Because this student, in her own words, “learned to lean into confusion instead of trying to dissolve it.”  Because this student asks, “How do I know what I think until I see what I write?”  Because this student, by coming up with fresh and arresting words to describe her experiences, expands the boundaries of her world, and her readers’ worlds, too.  Because this student, in her poems, essays, and stories, does what R.P. Blackmur said real writing can do: adds to the stock of available reality.  Because this student amuses and instructs, consoles and provokes.  Because this student deploys details and images in the way Saul Bellow said they should be deployed, each a wire sending a current.  Because this student describes her grandmother “with hawkish eyes watching cars drive by until dusk, when they were swapped for lazy fireflies looping through her empty yard.”  Because this student is a perfume-obsessed, ice-cream-scooping, one-time competitive Minecraft player.  Because this student, with her gloriously spunky voice, is Indiana Jones making finger-painted maps out of mud.  

Because and because and because. 

“Listen.  This is for you.”

The winner of this year’s Creative Writing Award is Anna “Annie” Dizon.   

The Amy Schwartz and OJ Burns English Award is presented to a student who has demonstrated a genuine love of language and literature and found their voice both in the written word and in collaborative discussions.

When asked which of the passages in Anna Karenina she would preserve if all the copies of the novel were to disappear from the face of the earth, this student chose one from the quietly heroic Dolly Oblonsky. “I have no opinion,” Dolly replies to Anna, who is anxious to know whether Dolly approves of or condemns how Anna is living her life, “but I’ve always loved you, and when you love somebody, you love the whole person, as they are, not as you’d like them to be.” The person who chose this passage to hold fast to is both ferociously opinionated and generously open-hearted, someone who lives in the ineradicable tension between the kind of love that embraces people, the world, works of art, herself, as they are, and the kind of love that imagines how all of these things might be better. As a partner in intellectual conversation, as a writer, as an editor, she forms judgments, and she thinks, and listens, and thinks again. Sometimes she hones her judgment; sometimes she changes her mind. For those of us who have the privilege of reading her writing or of talking with her about books or ideas, our minds are often changed, and always for the better. 

The winner of this year’s Schwarz and Burns award is Nancy Duer

The Upton Award for perception, appreciation, and scholarly interest in the study of English.

It was deep in winter, and our class was watching The Bachelor as a precursor to our study of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. If you know anything about the show, you know there’s usually a villain, though this villain is not always obvious at first viewing. True to form, our class fell for the trap the producers had laid out for us. We villainized a contestant without fully considering why we felt this way about her. In one discussion board post on the subject this student wrote, “Sure, what she’s saying is questionable… but let’s be real, how many of us have apologized for things we weren’t actually sorry for? I know I have. It’s a pretty normal thing especially when you just want to ease tension or pressure in a situation, but the producers take this ordinary occurrence/moment and add these special effects to it to make it seem evil or wild.” In making statements like this one, this student forced us to see what we might not have seen before; to question systems and structures we previously didn’t notice. She makes meaningful connections between what she’s reading in English and what she’s learning in History, what she’s talking about on the tennis court, and what she’s currently obsessed with (cough cough Hamilton). In this way, she has crafted analyses that force us to reconsider how we understand the concept of jealousy in Shakespeare’s Othello and in the Broadway musical Hamilton. She’s studied the intricacies of Petruccio’s speech patterns alongside the manipulative dialogue in the film Don’t Worry Darling. She is inimitable; she is an original. 

The English Department is delighted to present the Upton Award to Lane Durkin

The Susan Conlan Award for the greatest interest in the study of mathematics.

Jackson has always been an intellectual leader in the class. He spent his spring semester in South Africa while simultaneously cementing his mathematical superstar status.  During that time, SEGL was still looking for a math teacher, but don’t worry, Jackson was there! In addition to his own work, he helped everyone to learn calculus and to bridge the gap until a professional teacher was found.  All the while, he was helping his friends back at GFA with both calculus and physics, despite being several time zones away. This year in his Advanced Inquiry, Jackson was a real leader in the class.  He approached his own project (all seven of them) with gusto, and the more complicated the mathematics, the more excited Jackson became!  He was also an invaluable resource to the other students, and by the end of the year,Jackson understood their projects as well as they did.

Quite simply, Jackson Schnabel is a one-of-a-kind student. He has been presented with the Susan Conlan Award for the Greatest Interest in the Study of Mathematics.

The GLaD Prize is named for two GFA students, Dave Goldenheim and Dan Litchfield, and their teacher, Charlie Dietrich, commemorating the students’ discovery of a novel answer to a very old geometry question. The award recognizes a student who has demonstrated creativity and originality in mathematics

This year’s recipient of the GLaD Prize for creativity and originality in mathematics is Liyana Asaria-Issa. Liyana joined GFA in 9th grade, and even with the disruptions that were brought on by COVID, she dove deeply into the topics.  Throughout her career at GFA, her teachers commented on the pride she takes in doing math "in the way it makes sense" to her, and how her deep love for math shines through every day. One teacher wrote: “She literally beams with excitement at the sight of challenging problems with polynomials or exponents.”

Over the years, a hallmark of her approach was to adjust on how she studied to meet the new demands of the courses.  Her enthusiasm for every topic that was covered was contagious.  Little by little, her participation level in class has grown over time, and repeatedly she demonstrated that she was up to the challenge, and along the way, she grew and matured as a student.

This past year, one of the most challenging topics were the epsilon-delta proofs for all the limit properties. Liyana learned how to use the numbers “zero” and “one” cleverly and creatively to make the expressions fit the form necessary to conclude the validity of the limit laws.

Congratulations on an excellent career as a math student at Greens Farms Academy. 

The World Perspectives Award is presented to a student who has demonstrated outstanding initiative, creativity and scholarship in the study of global issues. This year’s recipient has consistently demonstrated a genuine passion for the study of global issues since attending their first Model UN meeting in 9th grade. 

Over the past 4 years, this student has also taken initiative outside of their classes by way of a firm commitment to local and international study, including a semester at SEGL in Johannesburg, South Africa as a junior.  For anyone who has delighted in one of his commanding presentations, there is no question that this student’s growth over his time at Greens Farms Academy is fueled by a voracious intellect, joy for ideas, discipline and consistent pursuit of excellence. Driven by his genuine curiosity about testing the limitations of colonial scholarship, this student produced an outstanding Global Thesis project exploring Blood Diamond Legacies: How Security Concerns Prevented Holistic Development in Sierra Leone introducing his audience to the persistence of historical narratives in the structures of systems and the new ways of thinking about neocolonialism and African Scholarship in the 21st century.  This year’s World Perspectives Award was presented to Davis Jordan

The Whittle Award is given to a student for ability and interest in the study of history.  

This year’s recipient is a true intellect who has immersed himself in the process of historical inquiry throughout his time at GFA, and especially in the last two years.

As a junior, his inquiry on Aviation and Systems Thinking fused classical historical scholarship with network models now available through data visualization, marking an important threshold for how GFA students are leading the way in rich and complex inquiry that in some ways anticipates what has yet to become formalized in scholarship– a new syntax of human history.  

His senior year advanced inquiry thesis, “Zones of Opportunity: The State of Affordable Housing in Westport and New Canaan, Connecticut,” is a meticulous examination of the forces that shape housing and, by extension, communities at the local level. Inspired by the work of urban theorist and activist Jane Jacobs, his research highlights the myriad benefits of affordable housing including social mobility, closing the education gap, and building diverse and sustainable communities. And like Jacobs, his work puts people at the center of the policy and planning discussion, echoing her notion that towns and cities “have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” It’s clear that he will go on to do wonderful scholarly work at the collegiate level–hopefully continuing to investigate our rapidly urbanizing world–driven by his endless curiosity.

This year’s Whittle Award was presented to AJ Tenser.

In the introductory questionnaire for Advanced Biology they wrote, “I used to really want to be an astronaut, then developed a fear of heights. I still appreciate the cosmos to the point I wish I could walk on stars, but only if it wouldn’t kill me. I love the thought of being in a *safe* *non-dangerous* *no creeps or scary animals or ghosts* forested area during the daytime”. This student is not only wickedly funny and unabashedly honest, they are also brilliantly attentive and a curious scientist, and an expert collaborator. They tenaciously take on each challenge in the classroom, laboratory, with an occasional exclamation of joy at a discovery. This year in Science Research they were a calming influence for  the younger students - a true role model. In their own research they blended their interest in public health and the environment by studying the health effects of microplastics. Their presentation was beautifully composed and expertly delivered.  They were spot on with the analysis and were able to point out subtle details in the FTIR spectroscopy.  

The Barbara Conlan Award for the greatest interest in the study of biology was presented to Bri McFarlane.

The Roger B. True Science Award is award to an exceptional student in the area of science. 

This student jumped into the collaborative Advanced Biology classroom as a new junior and seamlessly got to work with new peers, taking on sophisticated concepts and tricky applications. They quickly showed that they are relentlessly dedicated to getting to the truth of how things work; so they can then get to work applying what they have learned to making the world better. They are an intersectional  intellectual, continuously making connections across their learning and thinking about how to apply their knowledge. They realized early in their senior year that they wanted more of a challenge by taking on Advanced Chemistry,  an Advanced Inquiry in Science Research, and a Human Ecology and Sustainability Inquiry.  In Science Research they had to quickly write a proposal and learn the fundamentals of live specimen research to illuminate fertility issues in women's health.  There were setbacks but they solved unexpected problems to complete the project on time.  Bravo.  They experienced challenges in Advanced Chemistry too, but their grit and determination were evident as you completed the course in exceptional fashion. Their contributions to sustainability this year in the form of poignant questions in discussions, work out in our garden, and thoughtful reflective prose reminds us of all we can save. 

This year’s Roger B. True Science Award was presented to Jaidan Voelkner.

The Roger B. True Research Award is given to a rising junior or senior who will continue significant scientific research in independent study during the upcoming year.

Curiosity drives this student’s learning process. She wonders how things work and why they do what they do. Seeing the big picture is also a part of her process and she avoids the myopic vision trap that scientists typically fall into. This year she embarked on a science research project in her Inquiry course and wrote a wonderfully detailed novel proposal involving a potential solution to the world’s microplastics issues. She will execute this project in Advanced Inquiry: Science Research and communicate her results next year at science fairs and the GFA Symposium.  Some of this research will involve generating data using instrumentation that may not be at the school.  The generous $1000 allotment that accompanies this award for research supplies will assist you in your project goals.  This award was presented to Zoe Monschein.

The Sustainability Award is presented to a student who has demonstrated exemplary curiosity about environmental issues and whose research showed thorough consideration of the environmental, social, and economic components of a sustainable solution to a local problem.

The 2023 Sustainability Award is presented to a student for her leadership and exemplary curiosity and commitment to sustainability and environmental issues over many years at GFA. Even before she started in the Upper School she was working on sustainability projects and she very quickly became part of a group of young women who would take over sustainability and the eco-club throughout their four years. Her work in her advanced inquiry this year built on learning she started while reading All We Can Save, a feminist climate renaissance anthology that we read last year, fitting for one of the strongest female sustainability leaders at GFA. Her project has sent her exploring the beach, testing waters, talking to community members and considering a very interesting climate solution from multiple angles. This student has grown and developed her communication around sustainability in the classroom, in the garden, and on the kelp farm boat. For that we say, thank you Camille Ewing for your passion and commitment to sustainability and present you with this award.

The Visual Arts Award is presented to a senior who has demonstrated devotion, conscientious spirit and the joy of exploration while pursuing the realization of artistic potential.

The winner of this award prepared for her symposium presentation by setting up a video camera in her basement alongside her oil paint, gouache, charcoal, and clay. She spoke directly into the camera, asking and answering questions about the role of intuition in her artistic practice. She brought the lens startlingly close to her palette and to her canvas surface, offering her audience a visceral sense for how she applies paint as a way to layer perspectives that accrue over time. While she spoke about what she understood about her practice, she was most excited to discuss its ongoing mysteries, like how she might render her likeness in a way that felt truly confessional, rather than overly idealized. The freshmen were so lucky that her free period coincided with their introduction to visual arts class, where she consistently worked alongside them, cheering them on, and offering them fresh insight. The winner of this award is a searcher, who doesn’t just rest on her achievements, but rather uses them as vantage points to look for what is to be discovered next. The Visual Arts Award goes to Nancy Duer.

The Visual Arts Purchase Award is presented to a student who has produced an exceptional piece of original artwork, which will be added to the school’s permanent collection.

While his classmates worked on their drawings during class time, the winner of this award took his work home to add hundreds of horizontal lines to complete this drawing. His black and white marks allow us to imagine color and sunlight on the surface of a desert landscape. The Visual Arts Purchase Award goes to Emmet Ennico

The Joan Loomis Award is presented to students who reach a high level of proficiency in French and demonstrate a passion for the language and francophone culture. 

Award recipient is a gifted French student who consistently demonstrates her pure love of learning. In an unprecedented manner, this student rocketed from a beginning-level class to an AP French class in just two years. This past year she excelled at the French 750 (post-AP) level, the most advanced language class at GFA. Her talent and unwavering work ethic have enabled her to reach an impressive level of proficiency. Her curiosity and commitment to self-improvement moved her to seek out summer travel opportunities to continue her linguistic growth. These experiences abroad further developed her ability to master even the most challenging elements of the French language. She is richly deserving of this award, and the World Language Department at GFA is so very proud of her accomplishments. The Joan Loomis Award goes to Nancy Duer.  

The Mandarin Award recognizes exceptional achievement and enthusiasm for the Chinese language and culture. 

His passion for the Chinese language and culture began the first moment he stepped into class freshman year.  He learned Chinese with contagious enthusiasm, determination, and a cheerful attitude! As a busy senior, he contributed a lot to the class environment, but he also took a pivotal leadership role. His role as an emperor in the mid-autumn moon festival celebration symbolized how well he interacted with his peers.  Additionally, he did thorough research and wrote a remarkable paper on AI in China. He also did an amazing job with his partner on the final project-Healthy Lifestyle and performed the Taichi movements at the end. He has transform into such a confident and fluent Mandarin speaker and learner! His dedication to Mandarin and Chinese culture shines through everything he does, from classroom activities to the Chinese New Year Assembly as one of the presenters. It is my great pleasure and honor to give this year’s Mandarin Award to 名泰- Matt Olins

The Martha Laffaye Award is presented to a Spanish student who reaches the greatest level of proficiency in spoken and written Spanish and for demonstrating passion and understanding of the Spanish-speaking culture.

The recipient of this award is an insightful student and a deep thinker. She has helped lead discussions about the social norms that kept poor Adela away from her obsession, Pepe el Romano in La Casa de Bernarda Alba. She has written her own short story using magical realism in the way that Julio Cortázar used it in La Casa Tomada but this student used it as a tool to explore the absurdities of our own society’s attempts to control women who strive towards their dreams. She is an open and engaged student who welcomes new challenges. She has a calm and inquisitive presence and she makes each class more productive, and more fun. She is richly deserving of this award, and the World Language department at GFA is very proud of her The Martha Laffaye award goes to Lane Durkin