Southern Maryland teacher receives outstanding teacher award

August 11, 2008

Mary Van Ryswick, a teacher who goes far beyond what’s required of her in the classroom, has been selected to receive the 2008 Sister Mary Lucille, RSM, Outstanding Teacher Award, created by the late Tim Russert in honor of one of his favorite teachers. For the past 12 years, Van Ryswick has taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten at St. Michael School in Ridge, Southern Maryland.

“Her commitment to faith, social justice and academic development of our students is to be commended,” said Principal Lila Ridgell Hofmeister. “She is a resourceful and energetic professional inspiring each life she touches to praise God and achieve their best.”

“Mary demonstrates leadership in Catholic education that exceeds beyond the walls of her classroom,” said Kelly Branaman, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools, noting that Mary raised $10,000 to purchase a Veggie Tales faith-based playground for her school and produced a winning entry for the archdiocese’s papal video contest welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to Washington, DC in April.

She developed a successful buddy system where eighth grade students partner with pre-K and kindergarten students for Mass, crafts and social activities. She coordinates book fairs twice a year; organizes a week-long volunteer schedule, bringing parents into the school; and brings local celebrities into school to talk about their careers and how important reading is to them.

Van Ryswick makes learning fun and exciting for her students, allowing them to raise butterflies from caterpillars and monitor chicken eggs in an incubator and watch with amazement as they hatch. “Mary is noted for having significant influence on the students of St. Michael School,” said first grade teacher Jennifer Raley.

Parents of Van Ryswick’s students agree that their children are in the best possible hands in her class. “Not only has she inspired him to read and learn arithmetic, but she has helped him grow as a loving and caring young boy,” said Michelle Guidry’s of her son Garrett who has been in Van Ryswick’s class for the past two years.

Guidry deployed to Iraq for a year last summer and Van Ryswick “gave him the first hand love and devotion that I was not able to give while I was deployed,” she said. Van Ryswick’s class sent cards, letters and care packages to Guidry while she was deployed and wrote about what freedom meant to them.

The award was created in 1996 through a donation by the late NBC Washington bureau chief and Meet the Press moderator, Tim Russert. The $1,500 award is given annually to one archdiocesan elementary school teacher who exemplifies many of the attributes Mr. Russert admired in Sister Mary Lucille. Educators must have five years experience in Catholic schools and be nominated by their principals.

A special ceremony will be held on Monday, August 25 immediately following the opening Mass at 10:00 a.m. for the new school year at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The award will be presented by Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl.

The Archdiocese of Washington serves about 30,000 students in 98 schools in the District of Columbia and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland.

Kathy Dempsey
Office of Communications
[email protected]