Tuesday, July 23, 2024

‘Golden Apple’ Recipients Honored for Their Example of Being Christ to Others

Seven educators from Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Harrisburg were honored with the prestigious Golden Apple Award for 2024 during a banquet at the Best Western in Harrisburg on Tuesday, May 7. The highest recognition given by the Diocese to principals and teachers, this honor commends educators for their professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching in a Catholic school.

This year’s award recipients are:

  • Kimberly Winters, Principal of St. Joseph School in Danville
  • Stephanie Bader, Middle School Language Arts and Religion teacher at St. Catherine Labouré School in Harrisburg
  • Tony Brill, Instrumental Music, Band Director, and Director of Fine and Performing Arts at Lancaster Catholic High School
  • Michael DiMarco, Theology teacher at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg
  • Kelli Eisenberg, Music teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Gettysburg
  • Kathleen Leandri, Mathematics teacher at Trinity High School in Camp Hill
  • Karla Staub, Math, Religion and Language Arts teacher at St. Joseph School in York
The 2024 Golden Apple recipients stand with Bishop Timothy Senior during the awards banquet. From left are Kelli Eisenberg of St. Francis Xavier School in Gettysburg; Stephanie Bader of St. Catherine Labouré School in Harrisburg; Karla Staub of St. Joseph School in York; Bishop Senior, Kathleen Leandri of Trinity High School in Camp Hill; Kimberly Winters of St. Joseph School in Danville; Michael DiMarco of Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg; and Tony Brill of Lancaster Catholic High School.
The 2024 Golden Apple recipients stand with Bishop Timothy Senior during the awards banquet. From left are Kelli Eisenberg of St. Francis Xavier School in Gettysburg; Stephanie Bader of St. Catherine Labouré School in Harrisburg; Karla Staub of St. Joseph School in York; Bishop Senior, Kathleen Leandri of Trinity High School in Camp Hill; Kimberly Winters of St. Joseph School in Danville; Michael DiMarco of Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg; and Tony Brill of Lancaster Catholic High School.

This year marks the 19th year for the Golden Apple program in the Diocese. During the dinner on May 7, the awardees were recognized by Bishop Timothy Senior and Daniel Breen, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools. Each recipient received a certificate of achievement, a $5,000 cash award, a golden apple plated in 24-carat gold and an individual photo with the bishop.

Words from the Honorees

In accepting their nomination for the award, the Golen Apple recipients wrote essays reflecting on how their vocation as a Catholic school educator communicates Christ to others. Portions of each recipients’ essay are shared below.

Kimberly Winters

“An effective principal in a Catholic school should be deeply committed to the principles and values of the Catholic faith, including a strong personal faith, a commitment to moral and ethical behavior, and a dedication to fostering a religious and spiritual environment within the school. It is through those personal commitments that I found my true calling to be a principal.”

“Demonstrating empathy and compassion is crucial in a Catholic school setting, where nurturing the well-being of each individual is highly valued. A principal should be approachable, understanding and supportive of the diverse needs of students, staff and parents. Each day presents a new set of challenges, needs and situational responses. Considering the emotional side of a situation, more often than not, leads to a positive outcome.”

Stephanie Bader

“Why Catholic schools? This is why. I have the freedom to teach students in the ways of the heart, the soul and the faith. I am certainly also called to teach minds, but each day with my students is more than just preparing them for high school academically. I am also called to form hearts and grow disciples, which brings the far greater and worthier task of showing Christ to my students in the way that I care for their hearts, guard and defend their souls, and sow seeds of faith.’

“If my mission as a Catholic school educator is a question of communicating Christ and forming Him in others, there is nowhere as important a place to do that than with middle schoolers who crave Christ’s understanding, acceptance, forgiveness and love: things I have the honor of sharing with them through His grace and blessing.”

Tony Brill

“I have always been a firm believer in educating the whole child, and there is no better way to do this than in our Catholic schools and specifically through the teaching of the arts, while teaching our students to appreciate and use to the fullest their God-given talents.”

“Throughout my years at LCHS, I felt it was my job to not only teach music, but to also prepare my students with the many life-skills needed to lead meaningful and successful lives. To help them grow as good, caring, accepting, responsible, tolerant and giving human beings, and to always keep a strong faith throughout the many ups and downs they will encounter throughout their daily lives. I’ve also tried my best to continue promoting these same principles and values as a leader for our arts program.”

Kelli Eisenberg

“As Catholic educators we stress the importance of parents as the first teachers and models of the faith to their children. The example that my parents set for me throughout my life is a huge part of who I am today. My faith and love of music was always encouraged by my family and I continued to grow as they made sacrifices to allow me to attend a Catholic middle school and high school.”

“Through my vocation as a Catholic school teacher, I can bring Christ into the lives of my students through music – one of the most beautiful gifts God gave us as human beings. I teach in a Catholic school because I love working somewhere that is more than just a school – it’s a family and a place where Christ’s presence is always felt.”

Kathleen Leandri

“At Trinity High School, I share in daily prayer with my students and begin class with a new Psalm each week. There is something special and unique in guiding your class in prayer for a specific student, family or special intention. This is a privilege I’ve come to cherish about teaching in a Catholic school.”

“My most profound experience as a Catholic school teacher occurred last spring when I attended my first Kairos retreat as an adult leader…. To be in such a prayerful state with fifty high school juniors for three days was life changing. Being able to share my faith with both Catholic and non-Catholic students in such an environment is my mainstay for my vocation as a Catholic school educator.”

Michael DiMarco

“How blessed we are in Catholic schools that we can share the truth. I constantly remind my classes that the main ‘take away’ from Bishop McDevitt High School, the big lesson we hope they learn, is that God loves them more than they can imagine, that they are each made in His image. This truth undergirds all of our curriculum, all the science, math and history, the literature they study, the plays they act, all of the stories I tell them about the Bible and the saints and the Romans in room 212. This truth will lift their spirits in moments of grief or self-doubt, will allow them to forgive and be forgiven, and it will give them a basis to defend the dignity of their neighbor, to defend our beautiful moral teachings, which they certainly will need to do, to become witnesses themselves.”

Karla Staub

“I chose, and continue to choose, to be a Catholic educator because it is who I am. Being able to share the values, teachings and love of Christ with others gives me a sense of purpose. Each and every day I am given the opportunity to teach my students, through words and actions, the grace and mercy that are extended to each and every one of us by Christ. It goes far beyond just nurturing their academic growth. I am given the unique role to travel the road of their spiritual development with them so that they in turn can grow in emulating His compassion and kindness with others.”

“Our young people are bombarded with the often deafening voices of the world, pulling them away from the God who loves them, and it is my job, our job, as Catholic educators, to be that still, small voice leading them in truth.”

About the Golden Apples

The Golden Apple Awards Program was established through the financial generosity of the Donahue Family Foundation, Inc., located in Pittsburgh. Jack and Rhodora Donahue are parents of 13 children; all were educated in Catholic schools. The Donahue’s were eager to express their deep appreciation to Catholic school teachers for providing quality academic and faith-filled education for their children. They established the awards program in Pittsburgh in 1992, and it expanded into the Diocese of Harrisburg 19 years ago.

Educators are nominated for the Golden Apples by parents of students, by alumni and by fellow educators. For more information about the program and Catholic education in the Diocese of Harrisburg, visit www.GoCatholicSchools.org.

(Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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