Paula Farina, the music teacher at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie, poses with members of the school chorus after being named a Golden Apple Award winner for 2018. (CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)
Paula Farina, the music teacher at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie, poses with members of the school chorus after being named a Golden Apple Award winner for 2018. (CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)

Paula Farina, the music teacher at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie, says teaching music at a Catholic school helps students “understand what the words mean when they sing to God.”

“When I teach them (students) the lyrics to a song, I teach them to understand what they are saying to God, what they are saying to each other and what they are saying to their community,” said Farina, a veteran teacher at the school.

Farina’s dedication to teaching and to her students and to music led her to be recognized as one of 10 Archdiocese of Washington Catholic school teachers to be named as a Golden Apple Award winner. The annual award recognizes a teacher’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching.

Kelly Branaman, the archdiocesan assistant superintendent for schools, called Farina “an outstanding teacher in an outstanding school” when she announced the award.

Farina, who has taught at St. Pius X since 1995, said music is a vital part of Catholic education. She noted, “Music and art expands our souls.”

“I love coming here every day. I love teaching. I love singing with the kids,” she added.

Seventh-grader Ben Sylvestre called Farina “very patient, very kind. You can tell she is dedicated to her passion, which is music.”

Fellow teacher Mark Hammett, himself a 2016 Golden Apple winner who nominated Farina for the award, said his colleague “makes students happy. She loves teaching music and her faith is contagious. She is so gentle and so kind and so loving.”

Farina’s love of music and teaching has also been noted by Father Michael Jones, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, who called her a “dedicated and well-liked member of our school family.”

“While it can sound cliché to say Paula has a song in her heart, her smile, positive attitude and the dedication she brings to all she does… truly helped make St. Pius Regional School a place of learning, excellence and faith,” the priest said.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education named St. Pius X Regional School as a Blue Ribbon School. That honor recognizes the nation’s most outstanding schools.

Janet Schrom, principal of the school said that Farina “brings faith to our children through music. She teaches children to pray through song.”

Farina and her fellow Golden Apple honorees will be recognized by Cardinal Donald Wuerl at a May10 awards dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Each of the honored teachers will receive a golden apple, a certificate and a $5,000 award.

The Golden Apple Award was established in this archdiocese more than 10 years ago through the generous support of the Pittsburgh-based Donahue Family Foundation established by Jack and Rhodora Donahue, who sent their 13 children through Catholic schools and created the award to show appreciation for Catholic school teachers who provide a quality academic and faith-filled education to their students.