During the 11th annual Golden Apple Award Dinner held at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on May 16, 11 teachers in the Archdiocese of Washington were honored for their dedication to teaching in Catholic schools.

Opening the evening, Jem Sullivan, the secretary for education in the Archdiocese of Washington, thanked Cardinal Donald Wuerl for bringing the Golden Apple Awards to the Archdiocese of Washington 11 years ago, and also thanked the Donahue Family Foundation for making the awards possible through its support.

“A Catholic school is first and foremost a place to encounter the loving God who in Jesus Christ reveals love and truth,” she said, adding that the daily work of Catholic school educators, “is rooted in the conviction that Catholic schools are places where Jesus is present.”

The 11 award winners are some of the teachers who help make possible the mission of Catholic education by forming saints and leaders of society, said Sullivan. Each one of them received a Golden Apple keepsake and a monetary award of $5,000.

Laurie Maier, a Golden Apple recipient who teaches middle school math and science at St. Mary School in Landover Hills, accepted the award on behalf of all of the recipients. In her remarks, she noted that the 11 Golden Apple teachers were chosen out of more than 1,500 educators in the archdiocese, which means they make up just .75 percent of those teachers.

“You are the best and the brightest and the greatest asset to your Catholic schools,” she said. “You are the ones for whom we celebrate this evening.”

As educators, they often get asked why they went into teaching, said Maier, who noted that there are plenty of good answers to that question, but many of them “aren’t good enough reasons for us as Catholic educators to go into teaching.”

“We have a vocation, a calling to something of greater significance…The reason we teach in Catholic schools is because we put Jesus at the forefront of all that we do and all that we are and all that we know,” she said. “If He is not at the core of all that we do, and all that we teach, and how we interact with people, and the standard to which we hold our students and ourselves, then our priorities as Catholics and especially as Catholic educators must be skewed and wrongfully prioritized.”

As Catholic educators, they are able to teach morals and ethics, celebrate the sacraments, use the Bible for instruction, and develop in students a genuine concern for others, said Maier.

“To be effective in the classroom, I have a vision for the students not only to be successful at a very high level academically, but also to be kind, thoughtful, and respectful young people,” she said. “The daily expectations that I have for them are the highest standards to which I hold myself; to act in the most humanly way possible.”

Father David Fitz-Patrick, the pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Washington who served as the master of ceremonies for the evening, said he had recently taken an ancestry test to learn about his genealogy, and calculated that if there was a similar test to measure academic ancestry, it would show that he is “84 percent a product of Catholic education.”

“I love Catholic schools,” he said, asking where else students could go to learn that subjects like science, technology and faith “are not just connected, but essential parts of our life in Jesus.”

Father Fitz-Patrick said he had heard a fifth grader refer to the teachers as “Golden Globe winners,” and although that is not the award they received, they were all featured in a film produced by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Multimedia Production, including interviews with students, parents and colleagues discussing what makes them each such great educators.

Bill Ryan, the superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, introduced the film, saying, “We have our own movie tonight, made of our own superheroes.”

That film was followed by another, thanking Cardinal Wuerl for all he had done to support Catholic schools during his time as Archbishop of Washington. That day marked the 13th anniversary of his appointment as Archbishop of Washington, and came just days before Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory would be installed to fill that role. Cardinal Wuerl retired earlier this year, and had been serving as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator until his successor was installed on May 21. The cardinal is now the archbishop emeritus of Washington.

To further thank him for his years of service, Father Fitz-Patrick invited Cardinal Wuerl to the stage and presented him with his own Golden Apple Award.

“What a wonderful way to conclude this section of the life of the Golden Apple Awards,” said Cardinal Wuerl, upon receiving the award. “…I had the great joy and privilege these 11 years of watching one after another of our extraordinary teachers who make our schools what they are to come forward to receive the Golden Apple.”

Cardinal Wuerl told the teachers gathered that they are the ones to tell the next generation about the love of God, and said that mission is “the reason why we rejoice in the Golden Apple Awards.”