Congratulations to the following teacher and staff members who received special recognition at our virtual year-end service for St. Mary Catholic Schools’ faculty and staff. The recipients of these four annually bestowed awards were each nominated by several parents, students, and/or peers. Then, an administrative committee reviewed and prayerfully considered the nominating essays and chose the finalists. A list of the comments from their supporters was given to every person who was nominated for an award.

The St. Frances Xavier Positive Influence Award was presented to Justina Plemon. In her position as a middle school teacher, Plemon serves as a positive influence on all of her students and is a leader with staff members.  She led our staff in staying positive with students by volunteering to read books on classroom management and sharing what she learned with the staff. She has the ability to stay calm while dealing with difficult and frustrating situations.

The St. Anne Award for SMCS Spirit was given to Director of Admissions Kelly Beisenstein-Weiss. Beisenstein-Weiss exudes what it means to be a Zephyr.  Whether it is through her role in growing enrollment as the SMCS Director of Admissions, through her role as a parent of three SMCS students, or as an SMCS alumni, she promotes our system as more than a school; but as a family. She looks for new ways to attract and retain families through her collaboration with school leaders, teachers, and board members and inspires others to support the SMCS mission and vision. Aware that our youngest students are our future, she was part of a team that evaluated and established criteria to strengthen our early childhood program. Kelly also served as a member of a board task force that developed our new vision/mission/and system tagline. Kelly has worked tirelessly to grow enrollment and elevate the student experience. She takes personal pride and responsibility to embrace our schools and make our school community strong and more viable for the future.

The St. Isidore of Seville Award for Promising Innovation was given to St. Mary Catholic High School teacher Clare Stefanich. Stefanich continually goes above and beyond to ensure that our high school students feel school is a haven for learning and growing. As co-chair of student council, she helps to develop leadership capability in our youth while also engaging students in activities that promote school spirit, such as homecoming events and school spirit week activities. As a coach, Clare helps to develop and mentor student-athletes in our soccer and basketball programs through camps, competition, and teacher/coach role modeling.  Whether in the classroom or virtually, Mrs. Stefanich has demonstrated competency by integrating technology into her English and Speech curriculum and lesson plans. She demonstrates ingenuity and resourcefulness while inspiring creativity and critical thinking in others.

The St. John Baptist de la Salle Outstanding Teacher Award was presented to St. Mary Catholic High School Spanish teacher Caitlin Fritsch. Fritsch is known as a passionate, knowledgeable, and creative teacher who encourages her students to use Spanish not only to communicate but to also understand the history, culture, and traditions of the Spanish-speaking world. Her innovative lessons provide an amazing variety of ways for her students to actively acquire Spanish and to enjoy participating in the learning process every day. She is also very committed to her own professional development and finding ways to be current in language-teaching methodologies and trends.