Ten Local Teachers to be Honored with Excellence in Teaching Award

April 08, 2011

Ten teachers from Catholic schools around the Archdiocese of Washington will be honored on Thursday, May 19 for their excellence in teaching and commitment to Catholic education at the third annual Golden Apple Awards dinner. The teachers were nominated by their colleagues, parents of students and students. The awardees receive a $5,000 prize along with a golden apple, pin and certificate.

This is the first year the awards were announced by surprising the teachers at their school. Students, fellow teachers, administrators and even some parents were on hand as representatives from the Catholic Schools Office from the Archdiocese of Washington came to their schools to personally inform them that they had been selected.

The award is offered in just five dioceses nationwide. It was created by the Pittsburgh-based Donahue Family Foundation whose founders, Jack and Rhodora Donahue, sent their 13 children to Catholic schools. They established the award to express their deep appreciation to Catholic school teachers for providing a quality academic and faith-filled education for their children. The other dioceses that offer the award are Pittsburgh, Youngstown (Ohio), Toledo (Ohio) and Harrisburg (Pennsylvania).

The 2010-2011 Golden Apple Awardees are:

Prince George’s County

Lori Carter teaches first grade at St. Mary of the Mills School in Laurel, where she has taught since 2004. She has received many awards during her teaching career, including being voted the 2006 Prince George’s County Catholic Schools Teacher of the Year. “Mrs. Carter helps me learn. She is always nice. She plans nice activities for us,” writes William Kendrick III, the first grade student who nominated Mrs. Carter along with his family and Susan and Regina Mima. Last year, kindergarten teacher Arlene Cronin from St. Mary of the Mills won a Golden Apple Award.

David Tenney has taught religion at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel since 2005. Mr. Tenney is a member of the archdiocesan Religious Education Advisory Board and has worked on the archdiocesan working group on the implementation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ implementation of adolescent catechesis. “No one has earned higher respect from his students than David. They know he is bright; they appreciate the clarity of his presentations; and their clear sense is that everything he teaches has been thought through in his mind and his heart,” writes Mark Hanchett, fellow teacher, who nominated Mr. Tenney.

Montgomery County

For eighteen years, Susan Kirkbride has been a teacher at St. Bartholomew School in Bethesda. She teaches science to the fifth through eighth graders and math to the seventh and eighth graders. She is also in charge of school scheduling, Outdoor Education, Science Fair, 7th grade homeroom, new teacher mentoring, science curriculum coordination and is the junior high coordinator. She is a member of the schools Middle States Team, Blue Ribbon Committee and the strategic planning board. She has been nominated for the Knights of Columbus Teacher of the Year award nearly every year and has won twice. “Susan embodies all that a Catholic educator should- patience, respect, caring and compassion. She is completely devoted to the education of the whole child and service to others,” writes Kathleen Miller, principal at St. Bartholomew.

Frances Natalicchio has been the fifth grade teacher at St. Peter School in Olney since 2007. Before that, she served in the same ministry at St. Bernadette School in Silver Spring for fourteen years. In all, she has been a teacher and an administrator in the Archdiocese of Washington schools for over thirty years. She was nominated by Annie Ardizzone, who is very familiar with Mrs. Natalicchio. Annie was her junior high student at St. Bernadette School. Now her daughter is learning science and math from Mrs. Natalicchio. Ms. Ardizzone says her daughter enjoys the creative and inspired lesson plans, but also working with the Spiritual Life Committee to make sandwiches for the needy, and boxes of toiletries for the homeless. “Mrs. Natalicchio is the kind of teacher who makes you want to do more than you thought you could,” writes Ms. Ardizzone. Last year, St. Peter School’s second grade teacher Mary Atkins won the Golden Apple Award.

Elva Riley was nominated by the parents of a student who was diagnosed with a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As her kindergarten teacher at St. Elizabeth School in Rockville, she became a fierce advocate for the young girl, according to her parents. She met with child’s therapist to collaborate on developing concrete goals and strategies to help her learn. In her nomination form, Mrs. Riley humbly writes, “I thank Jesus every day for giving me the opportunity to share my gifts with my students and colleagues.” Last year, St. Elizabeth School’s third grade teacher and Reading Coordinator Melissa Werning won the Golden Apple Award.

Elizabeth Smith is the pre-kindergarten teacher and team leader in the Early Childhood Learning Center at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring. Mrs. Smith is the first ever candidate for the Golden Apple Award from St. Francis International School. She is a veteran teacher who has served on many levels at St. Mark the Evangelist School, as well as other schools. “Her gifts and talents have been an asset not only to the students in the classroom—past, present and future—but to the entire school,” writes Melissa Cidade, parent of two children in the Early Childhood Learning Center, and nominator of Mrs. Smith.

Southern Maryland

Dorothy DiGiovannantonio is the kindergarten teacher at St. Mary School in Bryantown. She is a member of the school’s Student Assistance Team, Chairman of the Catholic Schools Week committee, Fall Festival Committee and on the Middle States Committee for the school. She began her teaching career in 1990, and has been teaching at St. Mary School for the last five years. This mother of four also had her “Child of God” project selected by Catholic Catechesis Online to be published and shared nationally. “By treating my students with kindness, love and respect each day, my mission is to develop a community of learners who strive to do their best, who are kind and compassionate to others, and who will develop a lifelong love for Jesus, each other and learning,” writes Mrs. DiGiovannantonio.

Chastity Johnson is the third grade teacher at Father Andrew White School in Leonardtown, where she has been a member of the staff for the last fifteen years. The product of Catholic schools in St. Mary’s County herself, Ms. Johnson graduated from St. John Francis Regis Elementary School and St. Mary’s Ryken High School. She has co-chaired two Middle States Accreditation Projects, served as an evaluator on Middle States teams, initiated Family Math Night as well as Oompa Loompa Day at the school. “I was called to be a teacher in a Catholic school and it is a true blessing that brings me joy every day and one that I do not take for granted,” writes Chastity Johnson, who was nominated by the parent of a former student. Last year, Betty Lynn Armsworthy who has taught at Father Andrew White School in Leonardtown for 35 years, won the Golden Apple Award.

Mary VanRyswick has been the kindergarten at St. Michael School in Ridge for fifteen years. She has received the National Catholic Educational Association’s Distinguished Teacher Award this year, and in 2008, received the Sister Mary Lucille, RSM Award. The school community knows her for her dedication; she has spearheaded numerous activities, including initiating a calendar raffle to raise $10,000 for a new Christian-related playground jungle gym. She also organizes the School Book Fair, coordinated the Celebrity Reader Day and various fundraisers benefiting the Hospice organization and the Care Net Pregnancy Center. “Mary’s program lays the groundwork for successful school habits and positive Christian attitudes,” writes Principal Lila Hofmeister. Mrs. VanRyswick was nominated by the father of two of her students.

Washington, DC

Sister Jane Onyeneri is the Director of Religious Education at St. Augustine School in Washington.
Sister Jane has been at St. Augustine since 2006. Before that, she taught theology at Bishop O’Connell, and also at schools in Texas, Louisiana, and a school for the blind in Nigeria. She was also a principal at a school in Nigeria. Sister Jane got her bachelors degree from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and her Master of Arts from the Catholic University of America. She writes “I take care of the students’ spiritual lives. I ensure the students attend mass and confessions.”
She teaches Sunday school and volunteers at the food bank, teaches RCIA, conducts marriage counseling and home visitations. Sister Jane was recognized in 2009 by the Archdiocese of Washington on her silver jubilee anniversary for 25 years of service. Rachel Williams, whose three sons are students at St. Augustine, writes of Sister Jane, “Though we come from a Baptist background, I have seen my children’s love and respect of the Catholic faith blossom under her guidance… Many students have been called to the Catholic faith thanks to the loving teaching of Sr. Jane.” Last year, 19 students were baptized to the Catholic faith, and 14 are preparing for baptism this year. Additionally this year, 22 students are preparing for First Holy Communion and 14 for Confirmation.

Brie Hall
Office of Communications
[email protected]