Six teachers and one principal from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Harrisburg were announced this week as recipients of this year’s Golden Apple Award. The highest recognition given by the Diocese to principals and teachers, this honor commends the educators’ professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching in a Catholic school.
This year’s honorees are:
- Sister Danielle Truex, IHM, Principal of Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Lancaster
- Lisa Minney, eighth grade teacher at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Lancaster
- Deborah Richard, fourth grade teacher at St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus School, New Cumberland
- Patricia D’Elia, mathematics at Lancaster Catholic High School in Lancaster
- Carolyn Obermeier, Instructional Support teacher at York Catholic High School in York
- Eileen Poplaski, social studies teacher and Vice Principal at Trinity High School in Camp Hill
- Melissa Preston, third grade teacher at St. Joseph School in York
“It is an honor and a privilege to recognize these seven educators for their outstanding service to our students, our Catholic schools and our Diocese,” said Bishop Ronald Gainer. “We have all been faced with significant challenges during the past year, and our educators especially have been asked to go above and beyond. These seven educators have shown time and again, before and during the pandemic, their commitment to Catholic education, service and stewardship. I commend each of them for a job well done.”
“The winners of the Golden Apple Awards this year are an exceptional group. To win a Golden Apple Award this year is a sign that these educators have done remarkable work in educating and forming students while facing very difficult challenges – and a sign that the whole community recognizes that work, as well,” 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 our faculty and staff in our 35 Catholic schools in our Diocese during this trying school year.”
As part of their application packet after being nominated for the Golden Apple, each recipient shared their joys, love and reasons of teaching in a Catholic school:
Sister Danielle Truex, IHM
“I feel that one of my greatest strengths and the aspect I love most about serving in Catholic school leadership is my ability to see the potential in people, places and situations for God’s creative work to take root. Seeing what and who God’s providence has made available, calling for the best those resources have to offer, and watching the passion for mission unfold is a sacred participation in God’s creative power and it takes place in big and small ways every day in a Catholic school. I love that this experience of pooling the collective experiences and graces of all the members of a school community into a distinct mission is one that I’ve also been fortunate enough to experience, not just as a teacher or leader, but also as a product of Catholic education.”
“Being a Catholic school teacher is one of the most rewarding and meaningful opportunities of my life, and I will carry these experiences with me forever. One of the most rewarding, and life-giving, responsibilities I currently have is to prepare the seventh and eighth graders for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. This responsibility allows me to sow the love of Christ in my students by teaching them about the importance of the Holy Spirit as a Counselor and Advisor in their lives. This allows me to reveal to the students the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and how these Gifts provide purpose as well as strengthen them for the challenges they will face in their lives.”
“When I think of teaching as giving life, I think of teaching students the value of living a loving, service-filled life in the present and extending into the future goal of Eternal Life in Heaven. I am blessed to help students pave a path for themselves founded on a lasting relationship with Jesus. I am proud to say (shout!) I am a Catholic school teacher! The Holy Spirit has guided our Diocese to continue the mission of teaching stellar academics and Catholic beliefs this year, despite the pandemic. Everyone involved has worked so hard. It is living testament to, ‘With God all things are possible!’ My love for this profession has grown so that it has become my life.”
“I believe that sharing my faith is truly sharing my life with my students. As a Catholic educator, I not only witness my students’ growth as mathematicians, but I am also blessed to participate in their spiritual growth through shared experiences of sacraments, prayer, retreats and service projects. I am part of an amazing faith community which, as summarized by the Lancaster Catholic Mission Statement, provides a Spirit-filled environment ‘to form students who are intellectually astute, passionately faithful and socially responsible.’ Father Allan Wolfe once beautifully described the role of a Catholic school teacher as being a ‘godparent’ to our students. As that godparent, I marvel at my students’ growth in faith throughout their high school years. When I say farewell at graduation, I feel so blessed to have been part of their faith journeys and so grateful for the lessons that God has taught me through them!”
“In 2005, I helped develop the Academic Assistance Center at York Catholic to address the varying needs of students enrolled in our school. I am blessed every day to coach, mentor, teach and pray with the students who come through my classroom door. My philosophy on teaching encompasses the York Catholic mission by cultivating the pillars of faith, mind, heart and family. The patron saint of the AAC program is Mary, Undoer of Knots. We all have some ‘knots’ in our lives and Mary can unite them…. The students enrolled in the AAC program have the drive and willingness to learn and put their whole heart into their work to succeed. I developed the program as a collaborative effort to work together with teachers, parents, mentors and students to help develop a more active learner and achieve greater success in the classroom, thus becoming more prepared to apply the skills learned to everyday life.”
“I am lucky enough to teach with people who model love of self and of others; people who worry about the children who struggle in the classroom, or have problems in their home life. These are people who see the entire person as built in the image and likeness of God. They fret over helping these children find their way in a world that is continually trying to pull them away from God and their faith. They want their students to realize that many of the life choices that are either celebrated or condoned by society can be so harmful to the soul and may bring satisfaction at first, but heartache later. I draw my strength and continued love of my job from my students, but also from my wonderful colleagues who continue to shine a light on the importance of faith in becoming their best person.”
“I think it is important to integrate the faith into everything we do and give students concrete examples of things they can do outside of school to grow closer to Christ. I pray that they remember these things into adulthood and use them in their day-to-day prayer life and faith formation. We begin each day with a Christian hymn or song, in hopes that students see that there is great music out there that can help them grow in their faith and prayer life. I think it is important to include celebrations of the Church, both liturgical season and feast days. I include these as faith learning opportunities, prayer opportunities, and I integrate these into our other subject areas as well. The environment of a Catholic school is unlike any other. We are a family. We work together, lean on each other, pray for each other, and serve each other. I cannot imagine working in any other environment.”
About the Golden Apples
Each Golden Apple recipient receives a certificate of achievement, a $5,000 cash award, a golden apple plated in 24-carat gold and an individual photo with Bishop Gainer.
In the Diocese of Harrisburg, approximately 9,000 students are enrolled at 35 schools. High School students in the Diocese typically have a graduation rate over 98% and annually are offered more than $40 million in scholarship funds.
The Golden Apple Awards Program was established through the 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. To learn more about the Golden Apple Awards or Catholic education in the Diocese of Harrisburg, visit www.GoCatholicSchools.org.