Princeton University honored four New Jersey high school teachers at its 2016 commencement today, and one of them was Verona High School’s Rich Wertz.
Princeton’s Program in Teacher Preparation had received nominations for its Distinguished Secondary Teaching Award from public and private schools, and had interviewed 10 teachers before selecting the four honorees. This is how it described Wertz’ accomplishments as a teacher:
“Thirty-six years ago, Richard Wertz took a chance on a computer science class as an elective during his ninth-grade year. Twenty-eight years ago, he graduated from Princeton with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Twelve years ago, he changed careers, trading a job as a managing director at Goldman Sachs for one as a high school teacher.
He has applied all of those experiences to teaching calculus and computer science at Verona High School, where he established an AP computer science course, has overseen a jump in computer science course enrollment from 15 to 110 and has helped students double the amount of college credit earned in AP calculus classes.
‘It is my hope that, through my work as a high school teacher, I can continue to inspire a love of computer science in my students, as a way of embracing mathematics, and as a way of thinking and solving problems, but also as a gateway to enriching future study of the ‘pure’ sciences, applied science and engineering, and mathematics,’ Wertz wrote in a personal statement.
Student Carla Bello was drawn to computer science classes by Wertz’s call for more girls to learn coding. Since then, she has taken three classes under him and is part of the school’s App Development Club, which he supervises.
‘Mr. Wertz teaches in a way that makes difficult ideas, like mathematical concepts, easier to learn by representing the concepts visually or with real world examples,’ Bello wrote in a nomination letter. ‘He teaches with enthusiasm and humor, so, even though we may be learning differentiability and existence theorems, class is never boring.’
Colleague Thomas White wrote that Wertz is deserving of recognition.
‘Rich’s rare combination of intellect, magnanimity, deep thoughtfulness, low-key wit and humor, and genuine concern for people and for making our school the best and most effective place is an incredible asset to our school,’ White wrote.
The other honorees are Ronald Duncan Jr. of Saint Anthony High School in Jersey City, Barbara Fasano of High Point Regional High School in Sussex, and Matthew Morone of Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale. Each teacher will receive $5,000, as well as $3,000 for their school libraries.