Lauren Wisniewski, a special education and resource teacher at Holy Redeemer School in College Park, always knew that she wanted to teach in a Catholic school.

“I’ve been in Catholic schools my whole life. I went to Catholic grade school, high school and The Catholic University of America,” Wisniewski said. “I didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher, but once I decided, I knew I wanted to teach nowhere else but in a Catholic school.”

Wisniewski’s enthusiasm for Catholic education and her devotion to help students with special needs have been recognized by the Archdiocese of Washington. She is 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.

Jem Sullivan, the archdiocesan Secretary for Education, made the announcement during a recent school Mass. In announcing the Golden Apple Award, Sullivan told Wisniewski that “we honor you for your commitment to the mission of Catholic education and your dedication to students with special needs and their families.’

As a special education and resource teacher, Wisniewski provides supplemental instruction to students facing a variety of issues that may impact their learning, including those with developmental disabilities, attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, cerebral palsy and even vision problems.

 “All students deserve a Catholic education, and it is important that every family that wants a Catholic education for their child can get one,” she said. “We are committed to serve all children.”

As a resource teacher, she assists other teachers in educating students with special needs.

A 12-year veteran of teaching in Catholic schools, Wisniewski has spent the last five years at Holy Redeemer. Prior to that, she taught seven years at St. Mary of Piscataway School in Clinton.

Eighth-grader Cheyenne Parra, who recently won an essay contest, noted that Wisniewski “is very nice. She helps me understand things even when they are difficult.”

“Pope Francis has stressed that all people have a place in the Church and Cardinal Wuerl has consistently reached out to those with disabilities of all sorts. Our school community has worked tirelessly to ensure those in need of special attention in education are able to attend, feel comfortable, included and thrive in our community,” said Father Mark Smith, pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish. “Mrs. Wisniewski provides support as she works directly with these students; by providing both one-to-one assistance and collaboration with the teachers and students in the classroom. She enables our school to be accessible to all students.”

Maria Bovich, principal of the school, said that “We are so proud of Mrs. Wisniewski. She is just wonderful.”

“She recognizes that not everyone learns the same way,” Bovich added. “She is committed to students who have special needs and to their families who choose a Catholic education for their children.”

Wisniewski 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.