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Pursuing Accomplishment and the Framing of Awards Season

Scott Allenby

Each of our 374 students will have a wholly unique Proctor experience. The classes they take, the off-campus programs they choose, the dorms they live in, the athletic teams and art programs that become a part of their identity, and the adults associated with each of these aspects of Proctor shape them, mold them, and help guide them to better understand their own identity within the context of this complicated world. 

Proctor Academy Educational Model

Along these journeys, there are moments when we, as a school, seek to recognize excellence through end of year awards. We do this, we have told ourselves, because we think it is important to reward excellence in the classroom on the playing fields or in the art studios, to provide recognition to those within our student body whose work is truly remarkable. While we absolutely want to acknowledge the hard work and aptitude of those top performing students, we simultaneously recognize that there is a fundamental difference between achievement - the completion of a task against an external standard whose reward is the next level of achievement - and accomplishment - the end point of an engulfing activity we have chosen whose reward is, according to this remarkable NY Times Op Ed, “the sudden rush of fulfillment, the sense of happiness that rises uniquely from absorption in a thing outside ourselves.” 

Proctor Academy Educational Model

During Monday’s assembly, we recognized underclass award recipients for their work in academic classes and in both the visual and performing arts (a complete list of award recipients is noted below). For many of these students, this recognition is usually a part of a larger accomplishment, but we are careful to not simply recognize an achievement. 

The ultimate goal of our educational model is not to produce students who can perform well on standardized tests or who are able to earn admission to the most selective colleges. Sure, externally sanctioned achievements are often the byproduct of our students' willingness to dive deeply into their own learning, but our model will always seek to reinforce a mindset of accomplishment. 

Proctor Academy Educational Model

We follow a student’s progress in the theater, in Slocumb Hall’s art studio, or a multi-year boat building project and witness the combination of struggle and triumph, frustration and joy, and ultimately pride that emerges from their commitment to their work. We see a student pursue an Academic Concentration over the course of their junior and senior year, diving deeply into their own research not for a letter grade or some third-party accolade, but because they are curious and hungry to learn. Adam Gopnik writes in the piece linked above, “Self-directed accomplishment, no matter how absurd it may look to outsiders or how partial it may be, can become a foundation of our sense of self and of our sense of possibility. Losing ourselves in an all-absorbing action, we become ourselves.”

Gopnik continues, “Pursuit of a resistant task, if persevered in stubbornly and passionately at any age, even if only for a short time, generates a kind of cognitive opiate that has no equivalent. There are many drugs that we swallow or inject in our veins; this is one drug that we produce in our brains, and to good effect. The hobbyist or retiree taking a course in batik or yoga, who might be easily patronized by achievers, has rocket fuel in her hands. Indeed, the beautiful paradox is that pursuing things we may do poorly can produce the sense of absorption, which is all that happiness is, while persisting in those we already do well does not…The pursuit of accomplishment, what I call the real work, never ends and always surprises.” 

Proctor Academy Educational Model

This is our mission as a school: to create opportunities for young people to discover and become themselves, to pursue accomplishment without focusing on achievement. Our job is to simply facilitate this process of learning within a safe, supportive, and challenging community. We must always keep this perspective in mind, especially as we frame the giving of awards at the end of the year. 

  • Frederick W. Johnson ‘56 Memorial Award for conquering enthusiasm - Will Lunder ‘24 
  • Harvard Book Prize to the top academic students in the Junior Class - Brice Bendixsen ‘24 and Lisle Coombs ‘24 
  • Rensselaer Medal - Brice Bendixsen '24
  • Outstanding Contribution to Instrumental Ensembles - Devon Towne ‘25 
  • Outstanding Contribution to Vocal Ensembles - Violet Kraft-Lund Marley ‘25 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Applied Music - Meyer Gist ‘24 
  • Excellence in Drama, Overall Contribution - Lisle Coombs ‘24 
  • Excellence in Drama Costuming - Isla Delaney 
  • Excellence in Drama Performance - Hazel Curry 
  • Visual Arts Award - Carly Solomon ‘24 
  • Connie Appel Award for Writing in the Electives - Carly Solomon ‘24 
  • Connie Appel Award for Writing in US History - Cade Wiley ‘25 
  • Connie Appel Award for Writing in World History - Amena Martinez-Paris ‘26 
  • Excellence in English Award - Class of 2024 - Sally Sweeney, Lily Zhang, Zoie Hower, Bea Robblee
  • Excellence in English Award - Class of 2025 - Lily Krehbiel ‘25, Madi McSorely ‘25
  • Excellence in English Award - Class of 2026 - Hazel Curry ‘26, Amena Martinez-Paris ‘26 
  • Hollins Prize for Creative Writing - Paige Makechnie ‘25
  • Excellence in French Award - Lily Zhang ‘24 
  • Excellence in Mandarin Award - Brice Bendixsen ‘24
  • Excellence in Spanish - Lisle Coombs ‘24 
  • Excellence in Science - Class of 2024 - Carly Solomon ‘24, Lily Zhang ‘24 
  • Excellence in Science - Class of 2025 -  Brooke McChesney ‘25 
  • Excellence in Science - Class of 2026 - Cooper Zapton ‘26, Georgia Nichols ‘26 
  • Exponential Growth Award in Mathematics - Conrad Colon ‘25, Cole Doolittle ‘24
  • Environmental Stewardship - Actions Speak Louder Than Words Award - Rose Werner ‘24 
  • Academics
  • Community and Relationships