Golden Apples for the Teachers

Students from Saint Mary Bryantown congratulate their teacher, Vicki Vanni, a 2013 Golden Apple Award recipient.

An apple for a teacher, the traditional sign of gratitude in the classroom, will again take center stage in the Archdiocese of Washington as this month the fifth annual Golden Apple Awards are presented to 10 outstanding teachers from Catholic elementary and high schools.

Like the apple placed on a teacher’s desk by a child, these awards are a way of saying “thank you.” Jack and Rhodora Donahue, who sent their 13 children to Catholic schools, established the Golden Apple Awards through their Donahue Family Foundation to express their deep gratitude to Catholic school teachers for providing students with a quality academic and faith-filled education.

In a special way, we will be saying “thank you” to these 2013 Golden Apple Award teachers from the Archdiocese of Washington:

•  Martha Brach of Holy Cross School in Garrett Park;

•  Petrina Coyle of the Academy of St. Matthias Apostle in Lanham;

•  David Floyd of St. Mary of the Mills School in Laurel;

•  Christin Gaston of Father Andrew White, S.J., School in Leonardtown;

•  Philip McQuilkin of St. Michael School in Ridge;

•  Mary Margaret O’Brien of St. Joseph Regional Catholic School in Beltsville;

•  Theresa Taylor of St. John School in Hollywood;

•  Andrew Turner of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.;

•  Vicki Vanni of St. Mary School in Bryantown; and

•  Sabrina Worrell of St. Peter School in Olney.

The teachers being honored were nominated by colleagues, students and school parents. Each will receive a $5,000 prize, along with a golden apple, pin and certificate.

In presenting the awards, I will also say “thank you” on behalf of the Archdiocese of Washington to the Donahue Family Foundation. They are extraordinary supporters of Catholic education, and these Golden Apple Awards being presented in our archdiocese and in several other dioceses across the country are a testament to their faith, and their belief that our Catholic teachers make a difference in the lives of their students every day in their classrooms and prepare them to live and share their faith throughout their lives.

The whole idea of the Golden Apple Awards is to do something we learned in our earliest days in Catholic schools, to say “thank you.” Isn’t that what we say in our hearts to our teachers, to everyone involved in Catholic schools – our pastors, principals, teachers, staff, the parents who support their children’s education, to everyone who is part of this wonderful enterprise that is Catholic education – thank you, very, very much!

Ultimately, we recognize that Christ is our teacher. He offers us the words of everlasting life. Catholic education has as its primary task the communication of the person and message of Jesus Christ. What we seek to do in our Catholic schools is to take the threads of this encounter with Christ and weave it into our everyday lives.

Five years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, himself a great teacher of the faith in the classroom and later on the world stage, visited the Catholic University of America and addressed Catholic educational leaders from across the United States. “Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News,” said Pope Benedict, now our pope emeritus. He then added, “First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth…”

Our Archdiocesan Golden Apple Award teachers share that vision each and every day. They teach in Catholic elementary and high schools along city streets, in the rural countryside and in suburban neighborhoods. They teach science, math, social studies, religion, language arts and technology. They teach children with special needs how to read. They engage their students in service projects that bring Christ’s love to people in their community and around the world. They prepare children for the sacraments of First Holy Communion, Penance and Confirmation. But whatever the subject, Christ is present in their classrooms, and they teach their students to know and love Jesus.

In a way, each of the classrooms in every one of our Catholic schools is a place for the New Evangelization.  Here we learn as Jesus’ disciples in today’s world to deepen our faith and share it with others. At last year’s award ceremony, one of the Golden Apple teachers summarized the vocation of being a Catholic school teacher by saying, “We believe Catholic education prepares students for this life and the next.”

For that conviction, we say “thank you,” to all of our Catholic school teachers!