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2020 Jackson T. Stephens Outstanding Faculty Award

Congratulations to Mr. David Webb, Latin/Greek Teacher and Middle School Dean of Students, for being presented with the 2020 Jackson T. Stephens Outstanding Faculty Award! Due to Covid-19 and School protocols, we could not celebrate this award during the 2020-2021 school year. We acknowledged Mr. Webb and his accomplishments during our annual Convocation service.

The Jackson T. Stephens Outstanding Faculty Award is presented annually to a faculty member who best exemplifies the qualities which characterized Mr. Stephens’ life and work.  This award recognizes a teacher who cares as much about the students he serves as the subjects he teaches, is deeply loyal to the Episcopal Collegiate School and its mission, and who has high expectations for student character and student learning.  It honors a teacher who understands the importance of students’ co-curricular pursuits to their development of confidence and sense of self.

Dr. Chuck McCormick, Head of Middle School, read the following regarding Mr. Webb and his accomplishments:

“This year’s recipient models for both students and peers a curiosity about the world, passion for his discipline, and how having a broad array of interests contributes to a rich and fulfilling life.  First and foremost, he is extremely passionate about “The Classics,” and has been the bedrock of Episcopal’s classical languages department for more than a decade.  When visiting his eighth grade Latin classes, I am often riveted to his stories about Greek mythology and marvel at the hand-drawn maps and diagrams on his white board, not to mention appreciative of the days where he takes his eighth-grade students to the quad to engage their artistic brains through chalk art.  When one enters his classroom, they are struck by the multiplicity of Latin and Greek memorabilia, including a library, student projects of Roman buildings, helmets, and various eye-catching posters of Hollywood’s version of some of the more noteworthy classical stories.  Visitors, like his students, also invariably learn something new regarding word etymology when he and his students are dissecting vocabulary.  Throughout this process, this teacher always appears as a partner with and for his students – working side by side with them, cajoling them at times, and always encouraging them to try regardless of whether they think that they “can do it.”

On the perspective of the students, and from this person’s department chair:  “A multitude of students have told me over the years how much they have enjoyed this teacher’s Latin classes, and that they learn so many interesting details about ancient history and the foundational linguistics of romance languages. They trust his expertise because he doesn't need to rely on any resources when he is sharing his knowledge; he is truly like a walking encyclopedia.  There's no wonder why he can successfully teach middle-school, upper-school, and university students!  I have lost count of the number of our students who have won medals on various national classical language and culture exams; several have even made perfect scores!  One of the principal reasons we have maintained one of the most successful high-school classics programs is because this teacher inspires his Middle School students in his excellent 8th grade course. I have never met anyone from other World Languages departments who have said they have upper/high school Latin classes that are completely full, like we have had here since this teacher’s arrival. Additionally, numerous students in French and Spanish have said how much their year in 8th grade Latin has helped them with their language-acquisition journeys in modern languages.

Over the years, many seniors have chosen to take Ancient Greek with this teacher, even after they have met their graduation requirements in World Languages; they do that because he not only forges strong student-teacher relationships, he instills in them a sincere interest in exploring classical cultures and learning other languages. Also, thanks to this person, we are the only high school in Arkansas that offers Ancient Greek! This year, he is teaching the course in my classroom during 3rd period; I have already overheard some students in that class talking about how much they are gaining from it. If I didn't have to use that planning period for my own work, I would ask him if I could be in his class!”

Though at one time students may have considered him a strict disciplinarian, students, colleagues, and administrators alike ultimately realize that he truly wants to get to know his students.  From Academic Dean, Mrs. Stoltz, " This teacher is very passionate about the subject that he teaches and wants his students to understand the benefits they receive from learning more about it.  It is important to him to take the time to attend his students' athletic games and fine arts performances so that he supports them both in and outside of the classroom.  He shows his dedication to his students and to the school everyday and I am glad that he is getting this recognition today."  

A great advocate for the School, this person embraces the adage, “All faculty are admissions officers.”  When recounting conversations that students have with one another and which he overhears, he appears physically pained when he learns that someone wants to attend another high school after eighth grade.  Moreover, he does whatever he can to encourage that student to reconsider their choice because he genuinely believes that staying at Episcopal is in the student’s best interest.  When our long-time Dean of Students departed for a post at another school, this faculty member gamely assumed the role of part-time Dean of Students because he felt that the School needed him to do so... and it did!   In accepting this position, he sacrificed having an advisory, which he always enjoys, and believed that his relationships with students suffered as the result of this new job title, but he carried out his dean responsibilities with high levels of professionalism and compassion and was characteristically superbly effective when doing so.

This teacher, and while he was Dean of Students, consistently works to set students up for success in his classes, and both models and intentionally talks with them about the importance of the Episcopal Collegiate School Honor Code.  When students make a mistake in this realm, he demonstrates both respect for the code but also for the dignity of the student or students involved, and the care he exhibits in managing such matters is a testament to his love for students and his enduring belief in the significance of learning from one’s mistakes.

In the independent school world, there is no greater compliment than to be considered, “A good school person.”  This professional’s service on behalf of the school and its students certainly puts him in this esteemed category. A scholar who highly values the pursuit of knowledge and tries to imbue his students with this same passion, a lover of learning with a vast array of interests that appeals to many different types of students and faculty, an advocate and supporter of students who enjoys being with them outside of the classroom – He has led or chaperoned  numerous student trips and there is no one I would rather have as a guide in Greece or Rome - are all qualifications of such a person.  Additionally, many may not be aware that this individual also coached basketball for a number of years when he first arrived at Episcopal, and we may see him back on the court at some point in the future!  Indeed, his steadfast and significant support of Episcopal Collegiate School, its students, and his colleagues make him not only “a good school person” but also the recipient of the 2020-2021 Stephens Award.”

Congratulations, Mr. Webb!

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