The Diocese of Harrisburg recognized seven Catholic school educators for their outstanding devotion through the 13th annual Golden Apple Awards on May 7 at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg. The awards are based on nominations from school principals, parents, students and fellow teachers in acknowledgement of an educator’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching in Catholic schools.
The 2019 Golden Apple recipients are:
- Kathy Alton, religion teacher at Lancaster Catholic High School
- Nancy Duffy, English teacher at Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown
- Corrinne Eck, principal of St. Joseph School in York
- Janice Kiker, mathematics teacher at Trinity High School in Camp Hill
- Kristy Legenstein, kindergarten teacher at Resurrection School in Lancaster
- Laura Mull, eighth-grade teacher at St. Teresa of Calcutta School in McSherrystown
- Lynda Starceski, first-grade teacher at St. Patrick School in York
The educators were recognized during the awards dinner by Bishop Ronald Gainer and Father Edward J. Quinlan, Diocesan Secretary for Education.
The Golden Apple Awards program was established by Jack and Rhodora Donahue from Pittsburgh in appreciation for the Catholic school teachers who provided a quality academic and faith-based education for their 13 children. As part of their recognition, Golden Apple recipients receive a $5,000 cash award, a golden apple, a certificate of achievement and an individual photo with the bishop, prior to the awards dinner. The program is funded through the Donahue Family Foundation.
As part of their nomination packet for the Golden Apple Awards, the educators wrote an essay illustrating their vocation based on Pope Francis’ observation from March 1, 2014: “Let us thank all those who teach in Catholic schools. Educating is an act of love: it is like giving life.”
The following are excerpts from each awardee’s essay.
Lancaster Catholic High School
“[In] 1967, I had my first encounter with a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her name was Sister Mary Etta. As a shy, scared first grader who struggled academically, I knew in my deepest being that I was loved by her, no matter how many mistakes I made. At Lancaster Catholic High School…Sister Ann Francis instilled in me a love of writing and reading that altered the trajectory of my life. During my senior year, at a time when I felt utterly unlovable, Sister opened a bible to Psalm 139 and handed it to me. As I read those verses, God’s unconditional love washed over me and gave me hope….
As a Catholic educator, it is my deepest desire to share this beauty with my students. Just as Sister Mary Etta and Sister Ann Francis’ love bore fruit in my life, I pray that my love for my students, through Jesus Christ, will bear fruit in their lives for the glory of God. I want to spare them the pain of rebelling against God’s plan. It is a labor of love.” View Kathy Alton’s Interview
Delone Catholic High School
“The puzzle piece I carry into my classroom every day from my dad is to make the intangibility of faith tangible for my students. As an English teacher in a Catholic school, I have the opportunity and obligation to pray, to make the connections to life and faith using characters and literature. When I use the Scripture readings from Sunday Mass or the Gospel for lessons on figurative language, similes and allusions, I tell the students that ‘today’s lesson was brought to you by Hugh Duffy.’ It warms my heart to be able to pass along the faith in such a concrete, life-giving way and to perhaps be a small piece in my students’ life puzzle.
…. The great gift of Catholic education has buoyed me throughout my life and has been the source of incredible celebration. Sometimes, the students may feel that religion is restricting; however, what I hope to make tangible for them whenever we encounter each other in the hallways, in the classroom or on Sundays is that a life rooted in faith is freedom.” View Nancy Duffy’s Interview
St. Joseph School
“When asked why I am a principal in a Catholic school, one might expect a heavily philosophical response, consisting of all the theological, theoretical and pedagogical evidence that I could offer. It might reference the dedication which all Catholic educators employ, the spirituality that faith-filled educators express, or the expertise, enthusiasm and excellence in educational practices to which Catholic educators aspire. But the truth as it lives, is simply this: I am a principal in a Catholic school by the hand and grace of God. …
In the various positions that I served through [the] years, my goals as an educator were simple. I worked to be an exemplar model for my students as lifelong learners, assuring families that their children were provided with the highest quality of education through my own continued education…. I am a principal of a Catholic school, because the love and grace of God has taught me how to bring an open mind and heart to school every day, and I love it!” View Corrinne Eck’s Interview
Trinity High School
“I have chosen to teach in a Catholic school because it allows me to demonstrate my Christian faith, which is very important to me. Although I may not be Catholic, I still attend weekly Masses and pray with the students before each class. I feel blessed that we can pray for their concerns. I love the way that Trinity High School is like a family. When there is trouble or celebrations, we come together as one.
I attend everything that I can at school, like sporting events, plays and concerts. Whatever the students are involved in, I am there. One of the parents said that I must have seen more Trinity events than anyone else. I laughed and said, ‘Is that because I have been around so long?’ They replied, ‘No, because you go to everyone’s activities.’ I have students ask me to cheer for them when they have no one else to support them.” View Janice Kiker’s Interview
Resurrection Catholic School
“Teaching is not a 7:00-3:30 job. Most nights, work at home is required. There are many nights spent worrying about the students. Time spent researching a new way for a student to comprehend material that they are struggling with. Time spent praying for students and families, that their home situations are resolved. Time praying for patience, as some students test boundaries of the rules.
It is like giving life, especially in kindergarten. Not only do I strive to prepare my students academically, so much of kindergarten is preparing students socially and spiritually. Basic life skills are needed: how to open food containers, how to zipper their coat, how to use manners, how to blow their nose, how to work with others, how to sit in church, how to pray and how to show God’s love…. I take the time to teach these skills because I want the students to be successful in all aspects of their lives, not just academically.” View Kristy Legenstein’s Interview
St. Theresa of Calcutta School
“Students come to comprehend that being fair is providing what is needed, rather than identical circumstances, as each of us has diverse gifts. I live out this fairness by providing several versions of evaluations that meet the needs of my students. These evaluations allow students to demonstrate their knowledge through their individual learning style and are given opportunities to explore new ways to demonstrate their knowledge. Thus, adaptive evaluations allow students to shine and grow and to gain empathy for others….
Through the challenge to find their own paths, my students gain ability in leadership and responsibility. Additionally, they understand the world from new perspectives and subsequently see themselves in a new light. The exercises develop the whole child by allowing students to become their true selves and develop strong moral principles. In order to live a true life, you need to have integrity about who you are first so you can be true to others.” View Laura Mull’s Interview
St. Patrick School
“As an educator at a Catholic school and as a mother of four, I am devoted to teaching children how important God is in their lives. I will give whatever I have to help my students succeed. My own children refer to my students as my “real” children because I often think of my students even when I am not at school. …
My students are empowered to live their beliefs and create a better world in which to live. They are encouraged to be the best version of themselves. I am there for when they succeed and for when they fail, letting them know that both are good. Education will empower children to ask questions and work together to discover ways to solve problems. While focusing on the whole child, teachers can provide experiences so that students can learn by doing…. My students give me a sense of purpose and joy and I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to be with them.” View Lynda Starceski’s Interview
(Learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Harrisburg, the Golden Apple Award and this year’s recipients at www.gocatholicschools.org.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness