CRLS Teachers Honored with 2023 Faculty Distinction Awards

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For the 17th consecutive year FOCRLS sponsored the Faculty Distinction Awards, with the 2023 recipients bringing the total since 2007 to 68 CRLS staff members honored by students. Members of the graduating class nominated the awardees for having remarkably positive influences over their high school years. FOCRLS produced framed certificates, which Principal Damon Smith presented at the graduation ceremony on June 8 to these beloved teachers:

Ms. Natasha Labaze, who has been an English teacher at CRLS since 2001, earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts University. Students describe Ms. Labaze as “an extremely thorough, thoughtful and, most of all, caring person” who “brightens up my day every single time I walk into her classroom.” One student wrote, “Ms.Labaze helped me believe in myself. She helped me realize I was smart and I was capable of many things.”

Mr. Tony Porreca, who has taught at CRLS for 14 years, is a special education teacher within the English and history departments. He is known for being supportive, collaborative, and dedicated. He has a caring approach to working with and relating to his students as well as their families. By having compassion for all learners and developing authentic relationships with his students, he helps them rise to high expectations.

Mr. Drew Kreuser has been an English teacher at CRLS for nine years. He holds a graduate degree from
Lesley University in special education as well as three degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison: a graduate degree in curriculum & instruction/literacy and undergraduate degrees in history and secondary English education. He works closely with his teaching team to create an inclusive community where all students’ voices are heard and he works to provide relevant and engaging content to honor student voice and choice.

Ms. Rickteyzia Simmons has been an educator at CRLS for six years. In addition to teaching world history, she has created and taught her own course, History of Fashion, utilizing her bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising from Lasell University. Rickteyzia, who recognizes the transformative impact a good teacher can have on a student’s educational experience, devotes her time at CRLS to fostering meaningful connections with her students.

Congratulations and thank you to these educators for making substantial contributions to the personal growth, social development, and academic success of CRLS students!

FOCRLS Summer Update

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Friends of Cambridge Rindge & Latin School (FOCRLS) would like to share some recent highlights and feature a few of our 2023 awardees. (This is also a reminder that we’re busy year round.)

Thanks to your support and the generosity of all of our donors, sponsors, grantors, and volunteers, we’ve been able to present the following:

Forty-eight Scholarships totaling $86,250 to deeply deserving students pursuing education beyond CRLS. The awardees have impressed us not only academically with their A and A+ grades but also with their abilities, aspirations, and achievements across adversity. Thanks to our sponsors and donors, we’re able to support these determined students as they pursue their goals in the fields of medicine, science, computer science, education, engineering, and the arts, to name a few.

Awardees, please be sure to contact about claiming your scholarship checks!

See more about our 2023 scholarship awardees and sponsors>>

Nine Student Travel Fellowships totaling $19,940 for the CRLS trip in April to Puerto Rico. Thanks to our donors, we were able to provide resources to students who were earning, raising, and saving funds for their adventures. By being able to participate in this trip, they broadened their horizons, became immersed in culture, explored the environment, experienced the tropics, built their confidence, and created memories.

Four Faculty Distinction Awards, sponsored by Friends of CRLS and presented by Principal Smith during the graduation ceremony on June 8.We assisted the Class of 2023 in thanking four notable educators among the many who were positive influences during their years at CRLS. History teacher Ms. Rickteyzia Simmons was honored along with three teachers from the English Language Arts department: Ms. Natasha Labaze, Mr. Drew Kreuser, and Mr. Tony Porreca. Dedication, inspiration, kindness, communication, community building, and humor are but a few of these honorees’ qualities appreciated by their grateful students.

Thank you to all of our donors, sponsors, grantors, volunteers, and awardees!

Donate to FOCRLS

2019 Faculty Distinction Awards Presented

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Mr. MacLaury, Ms. Chaney, Dr. Lam, and Mr. Dagher honored by CRLS Class of 2019

Four of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School’s most beloved and skillful teachers took the stage at the high school’s graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 6, 2019 to receive Faculty Distinction Awards.  Duncan MacLaury, Melissa Chaney, Eva Lam, and Ibrahim Dagher were nominated by members of the CRLS Class of 2019 for having the most positive influence on their high school years.  For the thirteenth consecutive year, Friends of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a nonprofit association supporting opportunities at the high school, sponsored the awards, providing framed certificates and helping to convey the students’ admiration and gratitude.

Duncan MacLaury has been a U.S. History teacher at CRLS since 2016. He earned both his Bachelor of Arts in History and Master of Arts in Teaching from Tufts University, in 2013 and 2014, respectively. In 2018, his research on the Black Panther Party of Boston was published in the edited collection, The Black Panther Party in a City Near You. Duncan is grateful to be teaching young people, and in particular, the diversity of youth in Cambridge, about history each day. By using complex primary sources and scholarly texts in his classes, he engages students to study history and its importance to the world. His teaching pedagogy strives to uplift the voices of people marginalized in the traditional study of U.S. History and emphasize the power of people in making change in the world. By providing students with tools to use as active agents of progress, he encourages them to create the world in which they wish to live.  One nominating student wrote, “Mr. MacLaury’s style of teaching is very accessible, and he can reach many different students and keep everyone engaged with the material.  I think Mr. MacLaury deserves a lot of appreciation for his teaching, and I love being in his class!”

Melissa Chaney is an artist and educator who has been teaching art for 20 years. She has been at CRLS since 2015, beginning at the High School Extension Program, where she taught for 8 years. Her earlier years involved teaching at a therapeutic school for adolescents. She holds a Master’s Degree from Lesley University in Creative Arts in Learning and a BFA from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She has taught as adjunct faculty at MassArt and received the Massachusetts State Universities Educator Alumni Award in 2016. Ms. Chaney believes in encouraging all students to create their best work and to find their own unique artistic voices by creating a positive and supportive learning environment that focuses on students’ strengths and potential.  One nominating student wrote, “I have taken three art classes with Ms. Chaney, and she is one of the most supportive and encouraging teachers I have ever had.  She cares about her students as people, not just in the classroom, and wants us to learn and grow in an encouraging environment.  I really love how she takes time to engage individually with each student, and I would have taken so many more classes with her if I could!”

Eva Lam is finishing her first year of teaching AP World History and AP Comparative Government and Politics at CRLS. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies from Harvard University and a doctorate in education from the University of Oxford. Her classes encourage students to develop a broader perspective on the world and to seek a deeper understanding of history and politics. She strives to make complex questions understandable, but not simple.  Eva is grateful to her students, and particularly to the Class of 2019, for their curiosity, their hard work, and their excellent sense of humor.  One nominating student wrote, “Dr. Lam is not only an effective teacher but one with a contagious enthusiasm for the subjects she teaches. By the time I was finished with AP World History, I was equipped with not just a vast array of knowledge but the critical thinking skills to dissect and breakdown information. She is also one of the most compassionate teachers at Rindge, knowing when to pause and give students time to process, and she is more than happy to be there for students. Dr. Lam is amazing as a teacher and as a human being.”

Ibrahim Dagher has survived wars, economic meltdowns and, now, 10 years of teaching at CRLS. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Northeastern University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.  Mr. Dagher pioneered CRLS’s Arabic Language Program, developing its curriculum, and growing it to four levels serving over 150 students per year.  He encourages his students to be open and fair-minded freethinkers, driven by inquiry and sound principles, resistant to any herd mentality or prejudgment and, underneath it all, laughing and maintaining a sense of humor as a skill to help them through their own journeys of survivorship. Mr. Dagher is the proud advisor of the school’s UNICEF and Arabic Clubs and serves on the CRLS Extra Curricular Committee.  One nominating student wrote, “Mr. Dagher taught me so much and is the reason I’m going to study Arabic in college.  He wasn’t afraid to stray from the strict curriculum — to talk to us about life, ask how we were doing, laugh — but still got through a ton of material in a very thoughtful, methodical way.  He works harder than he has to and brings so much positive energy into the day of his students.”    

Friends of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School joins the graduates in thanking these four extraordinary teachers for making high school education an inspiring and meaningful experience.

To learn more about Friends of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, volunteer, donate, establish a scholarship, or add your business to the roster of “100 by 100” Cambridge Business Community STEAM Scholarships” sponsors, please visit, email, or call 857-235-9290.