During Commencement 2015 ceremonies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges honored two educators for the role they played in the lives of a Hobart and a William Smith student who graduated on Sunday, May 17. Amanda Reusch ’15 honored Orchard Park High School English teacher and Hobart alumnus Matt Bindig ’98 with the Touching the Future Award, and Ryan Sollenne ’15 recognized Arlene Eddington, a third grade teacher at North Street Elementary School in Geneva. This was the first time a Hobart alumnus or a Geneva City School District teacher received the award.
The award is given during Commencement each year as the Colleges celebrate the faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges who have touched the future of HWS graduates by their interactions these past four years. Established in 2004, the Touching the Future Award celebrates and honors the many early childhood educators-those with whom HWS students interacted in elementary, middle and high school, who have led graduates to Hobart and William Smith and to crossing the stage for Commencement.
Eddington was nominated for this honor by Sollenne, who credits Eddington’s unending encouragement and enthusiasm as a turning point in his attitude towards learning. After learning that Sollenne was having difficutly in elementary school, Eddington, Sollenne’s aunt, advocated for him to be placed in her classroom.
“Her excitement for what we were learning and encouragement she gave while we were learning truly made me feel like I could do the work that I had been struggling with up until then,” says Sollenne. “This change in attitude allowed me to also become excited for school, excited to learn, and the encouragement my aunt gave me kept me going.”
As a result of Eddington’s efforts, halfway through third grade, Sollenne no longer needed to leave the classroom to receive extra help in reading and math, and homework was no longer a “process of pulling teeth for me and my parents.” Sollenne adds, “To this day I believe that this change in my attitude towards learning could not have been achieved if it was not for my aunt’s unending encouragement and enthusiasm that she brought with her every day… One of the most important lessons I have learned from her is what it means to be a community leader… It is through her examples of leadership and community engagement that serve as a constant reminder for the person that I want to be.”
Eddington, who earned a B.A. and M.S. in education from SUNY Geneseo, has been teaching at North Street Elementary School for nearly 30 years, where for the past two she has served as an Academic Intervention Specialist in reading and math. Additionally, Eddington is a cooperating teacher and mentor for Student Teachers, Assistants and STAP Students.
“Knowing that in some way I helped to make a small difference in Ryan’s life made my heart sing and my soul dance,” says Eddington. “Teaching is not just a job for me; it’s my life. When I hear former students tell a story, write me a message or share a favorite memory, I know in my heart that I made the right decision to become a teacher. That is the greatest gift I could receive.”
A well-known community leader, Eddington is the Geneva Varsity Girls Assistant Lacrosse Coach, a member of the Geneva Recreation Advisory Board and a Group Fitness Instructor at the Geneva YMCA. She is also an avid volunteer for causes in her community, including Apple Fest Kids Fun Run, North Seneca Rail Jam, Thrive To Survive, Operation- Merry -Christmas: Center of Concern, Seneca 7, and the Knights of Columbus St. Patrick’s Day Race. She was the past chair for Geneva Relay for Life and is a member of the local chapter of the educational club, Delta Kappa Gamma. Eddington lives with her husband, Gordy in Geneva. The couple has three children.
Matthew Bindig ’98, a Hobart alumnus, was nominated by Reusch. As a student in Bindig’s AP English Literature class, Reusch says her eyes were opened to a “world of different perspectives,” and her passion for women’s studies and desire for social change stemmed from and was nurtured by Bindig. When it came time to apply to schools, Bindig suggested William Smith, and Reusch was, “amazed at how right he was about this place.”
Reusch observes that, “Mr. Bindig truly takes the mission of HWS to heart and has embodied it in his own teaching… As I come upon my graduation now, I keep reflecting on that moment (high school graduation) … As I did then, I would thank Mr. Bindig for giving me the chance to speak and to be heard, and for giving me the skills I needed to live a life of consequence at HWS. As I leave to join the Peace Corps and teach English in Tanzania, I know that I will continue to be connected to Mr. Bindig because I follow his lead and create a space where my students feel like I am a safe confidant.”
After earning a B.A. in English cum laude from Hobart College, Bindig taught for two years and went on to complete a master’s in education from Harvard University. He then began his career as a teacher in Massachusetts, and later, in New York State. Today, Bindig teaches Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, Creative Writing, and Sports Literature at Orchard Park High School and introductory writing and literature courses at Erie Community College. Outside of teaching, Bindig works part time, helping students brainstorm and write their college essays, as a member of a college consulting team.
“Being recognized in this way is a great honor because it’s an affirmation of the work done not only in my classroom, but in all student-first, inquiry-driven classrooms around the country,” says Bindig. “My goal is to empower students in their quest to discover and clarify their voices, to encourage them to carefully and critically read the world around them, and to facilitate their active, intellectual engagement with that world.”
In addition to the Touching the Future Award, Bindig has received many accolades, including, The Frances Nolting Temple Prize for Teaching (1998); The William Prall Prize in English (1998); The Hobart Alumni Association Award for Excellence in the Humanities (1997); a 2006 Yearbook Dedication from Fayetteville-Manlius High School, and Framingham High School Teacher of the Year (2001-2002). He was the recipient of 2006 CNYTC Grant, “Creating Meaningful Responses to Student Writing” and the 2005 National Endowment for the Humanities Grant at SUNY Binghamton, “Reading Don Quixote.” Bindig served as the 2005 Commencement Speaker at Fayetteville-Manlius High School and a presenter to the 2004 Syracuse University Project Advance Conference.
Bindig enjoys volunteering as a coach in several of his sons’ sports leagues, and works on his own writing when he can find the time. Bindig and his wife, Theresa Weidmann Bindig ’00 live in East Aurora, N.Y., with their three children.
The Touching the Future Award was established by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees. It derives its name from the famous words of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to participate in the space shuttle program who died in the explosion of Challenger. McAuliffe expressed the sentiments of many teachers when she said, “I touch the future, I teach.”