Seven educators from Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Harrisburg were honored with the 2023 Golden Apple Award during a banquet on May 2 at the Best Western in Harrisburg. The highest recognition given by the Diocese to principals and teachers, this honor commends the educator’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching in a Catholic school.
This year’s award recipients are:
- Jodi Reagan, Principal of St. Catherine Labouré School in Harrisburg
- Jill Euclide, English teacher at York Catholic High School
- Trinity Kane, first-grade teacher at St. Patrick School in Carlisle
- Kelly Mastrogiovanni, kindergarten teacher at St. Leo the Great School in Rohrerstown
- Joanne Reider, science teacher at Trinity High School in Camp Hill
- David Sharp, math teacher at Lancaster Catholic High School
- Mary Spaeder, fourth-grade teacher at St. Joan of Arc School in Hummelstown
“The principals and teachers in our Diocese are incredibly dedicated to their ministry of providing a high quality, Catholic education for their students. These seven educators, through their demonstrated efforts to go above and beyond, are witnessing to this ministry,” Bishop Ronald Gainer said. “Their dedication, commitment to Catholic education, and service has been witnessed by many, and it is for these reasons they are being honored. I commend each of these educators and thank them for the profound influences they have in the lives of our Catholic school students.”
“The winners of the Golden Apple Awards are annually the best of the best, and every year the selection committee has a challenge in selecting the winner from the highly deserving pool of candidates,” said Daniel Breen, Superintendent of Catholic Schools and Secretary for Education for the Diocese. “These educators are the standard-bearers for the selfless dedication, professionalism, and achievement of all the faculty and staff in the 35 Catholic schools in our Diocese.”
During the awards dinner, the recipients were recognized by Bishop Gainer and Mr. Breen. 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.
In accepting their nomination for the award, the educators shared essays reflecting on their vocation as a Catholic school educator and how it is – as Pope Francis says – an act of love and giving life. Selections of each recipients’ essay are shared below.
“As a steward, I am responsible and accountable for ensuring that my students and staff are cared for, mentored and protected. I must also ensure that they understand and follow our school’s vision and mission and that we all follow our Catholic faith daily through our prayers, words and actions. I empower my teachers to be creative by thinking outside the box, using their abilities and capabilities to provide meaningful and engaging activities, and cultivating their leadership skills by working collaboratively and cooperatively for a common goal.”
“My career at York Catholic is a vocation, ‘an act of love…like giving life’ in so many ways. While my role as a classroom teacher is about imparting knowledge, it is also about connecting with students personally. One of my professors told me that I would never teach my subject if I didn’t first teach my students. Her wisdom has stayed with me. Jesus’ law of love is my job, to love my students right where they are, on good days and on bad. My job is to be Christ to them.”
“My job as a teacher is to form future generations into responsible leaders, and I know I cannot do that without the help of God. I am a Catholic school teacher because that is what God has called me to be. I am a Catholic school teacher because I cannot imagine being unable to share God’s love openly and honestly with those students who look up to me as an example and guide. As 1 Corinthians 13:13 states, ‘So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’”
“As a Catholic school teacher, I want to help my students become aware of Jesus’
love for them and nurture them in a genuine relationship with Him. Children need to feel safe, secure and nurtured in the classroom environment. I strive to keep these needs in mind as I develop stimulating and fun lessons that students connect with and relate to in their lives, both in and out of the school building. That often means going to school early or staying late to prepare and giving up personal or family time on the weekends. All of which is worth the sacrifice if I can help to bring my students closer to God.”
“I am entrusted with the lives of young people at one of their most challenging and formative times. Within my classroom, it is a privilege to be able to share my passion for God’s creation in an open and honest way that involves recognition of His hand in creation…. In guiding students’ behavior, I am able to assist in developing their moral character. In providing opportunities to interact socially, I promote our school community and spirit. And in my unabashed love of the intricacies of biology, I inspire a life-long desire to learn more about our incredible world. These opportunities give life to my students by developing them into the fullest version of themselves.”
“To me the part of teaching that I see as “giving life” is two-fold. I see the act of modeling my faith and beliefs as helping to give students a better spiritual life. I also believe that passing on the knowledge of my specialty area of mathematics opens the door to many more opportunities in life. I feel that a good Catholic school teacher focuses on both of those areas. You should build up a student’s spiritual nature while improving their knowledge in your subject area. In these ways, I feel we give life to students’ future successes and positive spirituality.”
“Willing the good of the other is the love God has for all of us and what we need to strive to share with each person. In my vocation, I try to instill this in my students, though it may be a struggle at times, if a student is not open and ready to change at first…. In the current culture wars of the present time, it is more and more important to help students to connect with and be rooted in God to enable them to cut through the confusion being created in the secular environment. The Catholic school setting is an important instrument to do just that.”
About the Awards
The Golden Apple Awards Program was established through the generosity of the Donahue Family Foundation, Inc., located in Pittsburgh, Pa. Jack and Rhodora Donahue are parents of 13 children; all were educated in Catholic schools. The Donahues 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. To learn more about the Golden Apple Awards or Catholic Education visit www.GoCatholicSchools.org.
(Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness