Oak Knoll Creative Arts Director Earns University of Chicago Outstanding Educator Award

Oak Knoll Creative Arts Director Will Cardell is pictured with Class of 2022 recent graduate Elizabeth Eck ’22 (second from right); her mother, Juliet Moyna Eck ’87 (left), and her aunt, Caitlin Moyna ’91 — all of whom he taught at Oak Knoll.

Oak Knoll’s Creative Arts Director Will Cardell recently earned the Outstanding Educator Award from the University of Chicago. Cardell was nominated for the award by recent Oak Knoll graduate and his former art student, Elizabeth Eck ’22 of Summit, who will be attending the University of Chicago this fall.

The Outstanding Educator Award recognizes educators who have had a positive impact on the high school careers of newly admitted University of Chicago students. 

According to the University of Chicago, Outstanding Educators think carefully about their instruction, share an infectious love for learning, and care for their students both inside and outside of the classroom.

“I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to identify my vocation many years ago when, as a middle-school student, I was assigned to tutor a classmate who was struggling in Algebra,” said Cardell. “What a powerful experience that was for me — one that led me to pursue my career as a teacher 50 years ago.”

While at Oak Knoll, Eck has been a student in Cardell’s art classes since seventh grade.

“Elizabeth has been an enthusiastic and a talented art student of mine, and we have had wonderful discussions over the years about the arts and culture,” said Cardell. “I also admire her musical talents, as she is an accomplished cello player. 

Eck said that throughout her time at Oak Knoll School, Cardell’s art room became a refuge for her and a space on campus where she could simply focus on creativity. 

“Mr. Cardell helped me to hone my craft and my vision, for which I will always be grateful,” said Eck. “He also helped me create my art portfolio for college, which I believe was instrumental in the college admissions process for me. One of my favorite pieces that I completed in his class was Autumn in New York, which was inspired by the eponymous jazz standard, as well as Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cityscapes. In seventh grade, I took art class with him; and, because I was struggling in math, he also offered to help me with my math homework. 

“As the years went on, I still went to Mr. Cardell for math help, but I also took several more art classes with him, up until my senior year of high school. I always looked forward to class with him,” she said. 

Cardell also taught Eck’s mother, Juliet Moyna Eck ’87, who was editor-in-chief of the 1987 issue of Oak Knoll’s literary magazine, Freestyle. He also taught her aunt, Caitlin Moyna ’91, who was a former editor of Oak Knoll’s yearbook, Aquila.

“Then, as now, Mr. Cardell is a dedicated and caring educator who puts 150 percent of himself into every student he mentors and takes a personal interest in their endeavors,” said Juliet Moyna Eck. “He teaches through encouragement and gentle critique, allowing his students to engage in creative exploration as he supports their efforts. One memorable project for me was a recreation of Seurat’s ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,’ where each student chose a section of the large painting to recreate in a different medium. The parts eventually fit together to produce the whole painting, which reflected our diverse approaches and styles, and made one out of many. Through this project, Mr. Cardell taught us so much more than art — he taught how we should and could work collaboratively, generously, and effectively to produce a beautiful result given our many different personalities. 

“It has been such a joy to watch Mr. Cardell teach my own daughter, as he has supported and encouraged her creative impulses, delighting in her and her classmates’ successes and redirecting them when needed,” said Juliet Moyna Eck. “He makes every student feel truly valued and important. He selflessly gives to all the girls he has taught and is an indispensable part of the Holy Child education that Oak Knoll delivers.”

headshot of Oak Knoll Head of School Jennifer G. Landis.