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On March 13, 2024 I received a text message from Gabe Seir, who graduated from Greenhills in 2020 and is a current senior at Stanford studying biomedical engineering. He said he recently received some exciting news from Stanford and hoped to share it with me. It was the middle of the school day, so we set a time to connect later that afternoon. I wasn’t sure what news he had to share, but I was very curious to hear more. What he shared with me was that he was in the top one percent of his graduating class in engineering and, as a result, was the recipient of the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholastic Award. I was delighted to hear this news and so pleased he wanted to share this with me. What caught me totally off guard was that the award includes a ceremony to which each recipient is asked to invite “the most influential secondary or pre-college teacher who guided them during the formative stages of their academic career,” and Gabe had chosen me. To say I was honored to be invited is a total understatement!

I first crossed paths with Gabe during his freshman year at Greenhills when he was in one of my Introductory Biology classes. I had previously taught his sister Arianna ’18, and I really enjoyed working with both Seir kids. Where we continued to connect was through baseball. My son, Alex Winning ’19 was on the team too, and Gabe and I bonded through the cold and wet springs, the late doubleheaders, and the away games. Got to know Gabe’s parents, too, as we sat watching our sons play ball. The team trip to Myrtle Beach in March of 2019 was incredible, and I hold a very special place in my heart for that team. Alas, Gabe’s senior year wasn’t to be. COVID hit and the season didn’t even start. There was a great sadness all around regarding the loss of the season, and I know it was especially hard for the parents of the class of 2020 players. 

What does this have to do with being invited to Stanford? Where is the teaching aspect? To be honest, I believe it has everything to do with the invitation as it relates to the relationship and connections that developed over the course of Gabe’s time at Greenhills. It is about more than what happens in a classroom, it is also about supporting students outside the class, understanding their interests, their passions, and their skills. Gabe is an incredible student—he wouldn’t have received the Terman award if he wasn’t—but Gabe is more than that; he is an incredible human being. Focused, generous, funny, and determined to do his best, always! These are descriptors of someone who personifies kindness and compassion in all that he undertakes. His parents raised an amazing young man. 

As I prepared for my journey to California for the ceremony, I was in touch with Gabe’s father, Ricardo. He was disappointed that parents were not invited to the ceremony, and I promised to take some pictures. This is what happens when you connect beyond the classroom. You get to know families, you get to know kids in a different way, and once in a career, if the stars align, something incredibly unexpected may happen. When I went to the ceremony, I knew I was representing all my colleagues at Greenhills who taught Gabe, as well as his teachers at Emerson, and at Hebrew Day School. They all belonged right there beside me—I am just one teacher in a group of educators I am proud to call my colleagues and friends. To have had the privilege of speaking for them is something I hope I managed to do successfully. 

This honor was incredible. Stanford took care of the flight, hotel, and then presented me with a certificate, a box of chocolates, and a written copy of what all the students shared about their pre-college teacher. The luncheon was wonderful, but hanging out with Gabe is what will forever bring a smile to my face. We caught a few innings of the Stanford baseball game Friday evening. The ceremony luncheon was on Saturday, and afterward, we met up at the Stanford Oval and went on a nearly nine-mile walk over the next several hours. I saw the campus and the incredible artwork spread around the grounds, met some of his amazing friends, ate incredible food, and was aware the entire time that I was in the midst of a day that would forever hold a special place in my heart and memory. As I said to Gabe, this was right up there with getting married to my husband and the birth of my sons—momentous and very important.

I have been teaching for 35 years, and as I head toward retirement in the next few years, I will never forget the honor given to me by Gabe. As he moves towards his next adventure, a master’s degree at Stanford, I am already looking forward to his updates and continuing to be part of his journey. 

By Cathy Renaud, Greenhills Science Department Teacher


“Ms. Renaud instilled in me a passion for learning and science. I was fortunate enough to have her as my freshman biology teacher and her enthusiasm, knowledge, and love of the field is what led me to want to pursue a similar career in Bioengineering as well. Even after I finished her class, I always felt like I could come to Ms. Renaud with any questions I had, whether they be about school or life, and her advice never led me astray. I wouldn’t be the same student today without her!” wrote Seir.

Originally published in the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholastic Award program.

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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