Letty Downs, instructor in mathematics, accepted the 2016 Lufkin Prize on May 19 in an All-School Auditorium.
In her acceptance speech, Downs said that coming to Hotchkiss was one of the best choices she has ever made.
"Students, you guys help me every day with the gift of who you are and how you move through the world. The gifts you offer may seem tiny to you but, in my life, through my kaleidoscope, they are gargantuan."
She spoke about making choices, quoting Tal Ben-Sharar, a leader in the field of positive psychology, who said: "Every moment in our lives we have a choice. The moments add up a lifetime and choices add up to a life." As a math teacher, Downs couldn't resist translating those words into an equation:
On a personal note, Downs told students she was grateful for the struggles she has faced in her life. "Do not deny yourself the privilege of struggle, because it is through the most difficult times that we grow the most," she said.
Downs, who holds the George Norton and Jodie Stone Teaching Chair, began teaching at Hotchkiss in 1991. During those 26 years, she has taught, coached, and mentored countless students.
She attributes her passion for education, in part, to the years she spent attending an international summer camp. The camp director, Natalie Lüthi-Peterson, was a mentor and an inspiration to young Letty.
Downs thanked Dan Lufkin '49, who established the Lufkin Prize, awarded annually to a faculty member who makes a significant contribution to character development within the Hotchkiss community and serves as a role model for students.
"I am deeply honored and humbled to be following in the footsteps of my colleagues I have so respected and admired," Downs said.
She ended her speech with a line from the musical Hamilton: "Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now."