By Sean Qin ’25
At the beginning of Mercersburg Academy’s 2023–2024 academic year, Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25, ’27 announced this year’s recipients of the annual Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award and Zern Excellence in Teaching Award.
Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award for Religious and Interdisciplinary Studies
Alexandra Patterson spent three years as a research librarian at Mercersburg before joining the faculty as director of library services in 2017. She holds the Marjorie McCrae McCulloh Chair for the Library Director. Patterson has taught in the English department since 2018, where she has had the opportunity to be part of the collaborative 9th-grade program and its graduated component, the 10th-grade program. She has coordinated the Academy’s affinity spaces since 2020 and serves as the faculty leader for the LGBT+ affinity space. Patterson came to Mercersburg from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned a master’s degree in library science. A native of Bowling Green, KY, Patterson earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Kenyon College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Johns Hopkins University. Alexandra lives in Fowle Hall.
The award was established by Andrew Ammerman ’68 and his mother, the late Josephine Ammerman, to bring recognition to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated outstanding pedagogy in challenging Mercersburg students to address the spiritual, moral, ethical, and artistic dimensions of their lives, or to bring recognition to special religion scholars-in-residence who may be engaged from time to time to accomplish the same purpose.
Zern Excellence in Teaching Award
Ben McNeil teaches French and Latin and is the language department head. McNeil lived in New England most of his childhood and played football, hockey, and lacrosse at Williston Northampton School, where he earned 10 varsity letters and was a New England All-Star in lacrosse. He went on to play lacrosse at Providence College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in French. He also holds a master’s degree in French pedagogy and linguistics from Middlebury College and has Latin credits from Catholic University. McNeil came to Mercersburg from the Tilton School in New Hampshire in 2014. He and his three sons—Manny ’25, Finnegan ’26, and Everett—live in Main Hall.
The award was established by Judy and Allen Zern ’61 for annual presentation to a faculty member or members, with special consideration given to teachers in the math or science department.