Orinda Academy-2010 Winner

Jeff Quittman has been a teacher for 25 years.  He currently teaches at Orinda Academy.  He has taught History, Western Civilization, Economics, Civics, and Literature.

Over the years, he has helped students to organize numerous clubs and student interest groups including chess, political awareness, and debate.  He steps in to chaperone school events, oversees the yearbook, and lead a popular hiking class when a colleague was injured.  He has mentored a string of new teachers, always ready to share reading lists for classes or to discuss strategies for reaching particular students.

Jeff starts each year in his U.S. History class by presenting students with two quotes from George Washington: “We cannot be guaranteed success, but we can act in such a way as to deserve it,” and “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”  Throughout the year, he makes his students reflect upon and use these universally applicable quotations as inspiration and guidance in dealing with the various challenges they face in pursuit of their own unique individual goals, academic and personal.

Mr. Quittman always provides his students with individualized support, and encourages them in their efforts to meet his high standards.  Each student needs a somewhat different mixture of empathy, patience, and nurturing, requiring Jeff to draw on his intellect and intuition to find and deliver the right combination for each situation.  As Jeff says, ”we read and study literature because we are human beings who think and feel, and therefore have a need to connect with other minds and souls. History and literature can help us in this quest to better understand ourselves, others, and the world in which we live.”

We are told that Jeff relishes the opportunity to inspire students from a widely diverse range of backgrounds and experiences – to successfully push each of them to strive for excellence-to persevere, and as Washington counseled “to act in such as way as to deserve” success. This message is often a welcome relief to students who are accustomed to hearing that they are less capable.   High expectations, together with encouragement, often liberates students’ spirits from the shackles of feeling “different” or “less than” the norm.

As one parent told us:

“[Most]  impressive is his lifelong transformative influence on the student who came to Orinda Academy from a large high school because he had been lost at the back of the classroom; the student who never enjoyed reading but then in Jeff’s classes found that through reading she could find connection, or the student who accepted his own mediocre performance or might otherwise have disappeared under a “learning disability” label, but who; with Jeff, aspired to learn about current economic and political issues.

In his 23 years at Orinda Academy, he has been and still remains the “heart and soul” of the school- the teacher virtually always voted ”favorite teacher,” the teacher from whom students say they have “learned the most,” the teacher they found the “most enlightening”.  I can confidently say that there is no other teacher who has been or is more highly respected, appreciated, and liked by the students and their parents than Jeff Quittman.”