Jacquelyn Wolfgram, the first grade teacher at St. Elizabeth School in Rockville, is a 2018 Golden Apple Award-winning teacher.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYLN LIPPELMANN Jacquelyn Wolfgram, the first grade teacher at St. Elizabeth School in Rockville, is a 2018 Golden Apple Award-winning teacher.
Jacquelyn Wolfgram, the first grade teacher at St. Elizabeth School in Rockville, walked into a surprise party of about 400 people on April 23, which included all of the school’s students, her husband, and two of her kids, plus two more of her kids who were watching through Facetime.

When she walked in the room, the students all yelled, “Surprise!” and dramatic music began to play as she saw the banner congratulating her for being selected as a 2018 Golden Apple Award recipient. She and nine other teachers in the Archdiocese of Washington were selected for the award, which celebrates their excellence as teachers and their dedication to Catholic education.

Vincent Spadoni, the principal of St. Elizabeth’s, called Wolfgram’s award a “most deserved recognition,” noting that she has become an important part in the history of the school during her time teaching there. He declared April 26, 2018 to be “Mrs. Jacquelyn Wolfgram Day” at the school.

“The school is different now than it was 14 years ago,” he said. “Many of the blessings that have come to this school are because of Mrs. Wolfgram.”

Part of the impact she has had on the school is how she has advised upon and helped implement the curriculum over the past decade, said Spadoni.

After having a previous career in nursing, Wolfgram began teaching around the time her own kids went to school. Spadoni recalled how about 10 years ago he approached Wolfgram, who was a classroom assistant, and asked her to become the school’s lead first grade teacher, and she said, “I’m not sure I’m ready.” But now, about a decade later, Spadoni told her, “You were more than ready.”

“I will never be able to repay Mrs. Wolfgram for saying ‘yes’ to me that day,” he said.

As they were gathered in the gymnasium, the students sang a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” with the lyrics changed to celebrate the occasion. As a part of the song, the students sang, “Now it is time to honor our good friend, who is Christ-like in all she does.”

“Mrs. Wolfgram lives the message…that we love God and we love neighbor, and she speaks those words each and every day here at the school, but her caring and loving approach in the classroom is evident the moment you walk in,” said Spadoni. “You can feel the warmth, you can feel the love, and that is why so many families here have grown to love, respect and admire this great woman.”

While “many people live their lives without knowing the lives they have touched,” Wolfgram has touched many in the St. Elizabeth community, said Spadoni, who added that she “loves the children first and teaches them second.”

This is evident in Wolfgram’s relationship with Erin Osborne and her daughter, Alice, who is now a fifth grader at the school. When Alice was in first grade, both her father and grandfather died, and Wolfgram helped Alice through the stress she was experiencing at school and at home, her mom said.

“Mrs. Wolfgram was able to identify this difference between stress and just not understanding the material, and was able to help my daughter successfully move through first grade and make it a positive experience,” said Osborne, who said the teacher helped provide stability to her daughter at a challenging time.

Wolfgram played a similar role for Sofia Parra, a fourth grader at the school who recalled how, “Mrs. Wolfgram kind of helped me through everything.”

Para said when she was in second grade she had to have surgery, and when Wolfgram saw her crying one day in school, she pulled her aside and sat with her for awhile.

“She is sweet, she is kind and she is loving. She is really nice to you, even if you’re really sad she’ll be really nice,” said Alice Osborne. “She helps all of her students, the good and the bad. It makes her a really good teacher.”

Agreeing, Duncan O’Connor, who is currently in her first grade class, said, “Mrs. Wolfgram is a nice and loving teacher to everyone.”

In situations like these, Wolfgram said she appreciates teaching in a Catholic school because of her ability to bring faith into the conversation.

“What I love about teaching in a Catholic school is we do have formal religion class, but you can weave the love of Jesus and the love of God throughout the day, and when children are suffering or are dealing with loss and so forth, it is such a strength I think to be able to bring your faith to support them in that way,” she said.

Spadoni said these relationships that Wolfgram builds with not only her students, but also their families, often last for years after they leave the classroom.

“I think that is one of her most admirable qualities – the investment she has in each and every one one of the families of the children that she teaches,” said Spadoni.