For nearly 30 years, Susan Scott has taught in Catholic schools. A middle school math and religion teacher at Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings, Maryland, for the past six years, Scott says Catholic education is “what I have been called to do.”

“I grew up in Catholic education. I went to a Catholic elementary school. I went to a Catholic high school and my master’s degree is from The Catholic University of America,” she said. “I guess Catholic education is just who I am, and what I have been called to do.”

Scott’s devotion to Catholic education was honored this year as she was one of 10 Archdiocese of Washington educators to be named a 2020 Golden Apple Award winner.

The Golden Apple Awards, sponsored by the Donahue Family Foundation, honor outstanding Catholic school teachers in this archdiocese, and several other dioceses in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Jack and Rhodora Donahue, founders of the Pittsburgh-based foundation, sent their 13 children to Catholic schools, and established the award to show their appreciation for Catholic education.

The annual award recognizes a teacher’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching in Catholic schools.

Prior to teaching at Cardinal Hickey Academy, Scott spent 12 years at St. John the Evangelist School in Clinton, where she was the first lay principal there. She also served for three years as a resource teacher at St. Bartholomew School in Bethesda and seven years as an educator in Catholic schools in New Orleans.

“In a Catholic school, I love being able to turn to God anytime I need to and pray with the children and know that He is always near,” she said. “Especially these past couple of months with this pandemic, we have been able to start our Zoom classes with a prayer and end with a prayer. We pray to return to class, for those who are sick and those who lost a job. We need those extra prayers, and we need to turn to our faith right now.”

The change from in-person learning to distance learning that had to occur as Catholic schools temporarily closed in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus was something of a challenge to adapt to, Scott said.

“It was really a struggle for me to teach (math) concepts without that one-on-one contact with students,” she said. “But as I was learning using new on-line tools, I was also learning and growing. I had to learn new things which was exciting.”

She added that she was proud of how Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington rose to the challenge of distance learning. “We didn’t skip a beat – we went from brick and mortar teaching on Friday, March 13, to virtual on Monday, March 16,” she said. “We were set up and running – which is pretty amazing – and our kids just kept rolling.”

While she has mastered teaching virtually, Scott said “I do miss seeing the kids in the classroom.”

“I miss being with the kids because every day is different, because they (the students) make it so. You never know what they are going to say, what challenge they bring to the table,” Scott said. “They brighten the day, and not having them these last few months has really brought that to the forefront. I look forward to getting back in the classroom. I miss them.”

With the widespread use of digital learning and virtual classrooms, Scott noted that “given the last few months, I really don’t know what teaching will look like in 20 years. It could all be digital.’

She said that with digital education, “the information may be the same, but how you present it and how you reach the children has radically changed.”

While the methodology may change, Scott said “the hardest part” of teaching remains the same: “The hardest part is at the end of the day when you are wondering if you’ve done enough to meet the diversity in the children. You ask yourself, ‘Did I reach everyone?,’ and you hope everybody learned something that day.”

Scott has two daughters: Daphne, who will be a senior next year at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville and Skylar, who graduated this year from Cardinal Hickey Academy and will join her older sister at McNamara in the fall.

The family belongs to Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Owings, Maryland, where Scott serves as a sacristan and Eucharistic minister.

“From a pastoral perspective, I found that Susan is a faithful and practicing member of the Church,” said Father Michael King, pastor of the parish. “She is a faithful member of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish.”

This past school year, Scott established at Cardinal Hickey Academy a monthly faith formation program where students gathered and participated in faith-based activities – based on Bible stories or lives of the saints or a virtue – that included learning coupled with arts or crafts or other activities.

“Mrs. Scott is an enthusiastic teacher both in and out of the classroom. She is always willing to take on extra duties and has many creative ideas,” said Darlene Kostelnik, principal of Cardinal Hickey Academy. “I could go on and on with a list of things she was involved with in supporting the students and school.”

Scott learned that she was a Golden Apple winner when Bill Ryan, the secretary of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, and Wendy Anderson, an associate superintendent, participated in one of the school’s virtual staff meetings.

“It’s funny, but I had forgotten about the Golden Apple (Awards) when the pandemic hit. At one of our virtual staff meetings when I saw Bill Ryan and Wendy Anderson, I thought it might be bad news,” Scott said. “After they announced the award, it took me a minute or so to process it. It was very surreal.”

Scott and her fellow Golden Apple Award winners each will receive a $5,000 prize, along with a golden apple, pin and certificate.