When students, colleagues and her principal talk about Christine Brant’s classroom, the first thing they all mention is how the love of Jesus and His Gospel message is the first and most important lesson she teaches.

“When you walk into Mrs. Brant’s classroom, it is a pure delight because it is Christ-centered,” said Alisha Jordan, principal of St. Mary of the Mills School in Laurel, Maryland, where Brant has been a kindergarten teacher since 1986.

Brant said that teaching her students to love God and love one another is her favorite part of her job.

“I love helping young children grow in their faith,” the veteran educator said. “It is so rewarding to hear students talk about God and the saints. Teaching here has given me a stronger faith.”

Brant’s devotion to her profession and her faith has been honored by the Archdiocese of Washington. She is one of 11 Catholic school teachers in the archdiocese to be named a Golden Apple Award winner this year. The annual award recognizes a teacher’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching in Catholic schools.

Bill Ryan, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, said Brant “is a great teacher who loves Jesus Christ, and exudes that in all that she does.”

“I’ve loved teaching at St. Mary of the Mills – it is a blessing to be part of this community because the students are amazing, the parents are amazing and the faculty is amazing,” Brant said.

Jordan, the school principal, called Brant “a pillar of St. Mary’s community for almost 34 years”

“I am blessed and thankful that she is a part of our staff,” Jordan said. “Mrs. Brant is a great teacher who works tirelessly. The other teachers love her and look up to her. Even though she teaches kindergarten, she has a wealth of knowledge for all teachers.”

Peggy Walsh, a longtime third-grade teacher at St. Mary of the Mills who retired in 2014 and now volunteers in Brant’s classroom, nominated her friend and colleague for the honor.

Walsh said that Brant “exemplifies what a Catholic school teacher is. She is an extraordinary person and an extraordinary teacher.”

“She is a combination of so many gifts and talents – patience, kindness and understanding,” Walsh said. “She does so many creative things and the kids love her. Her classroom is Christ-centered and they (the students) learn about God and how they are God’s gift to others.”

Golden Apple Award-winning teacher Christine Brant, shown teaching her kindergarten students, has taught at St. Mary of the Mills School in Laurel since 1986. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Walsh said that Brant collects clothing for the needy, spearheads a Christmas collection, participates in adopt-a-family programs and provides Easter baskets to the poor.

“She (Brant) lives out her Catholic faith and the Gospel message that we are our brother’s keeper,” Walsh said. “Christine is someone who is so giving of herself and so thoughtful of others.”

Kindergarten student Cecilia “CeCe” Shute said Brant “is the best teacher, and I love her.”

“She makes me do good work,” Cece said. “She taught us the Stations of the Cross. In class we pray to God because we love God and God forgives us and loves all of us.”

As she looks back on more than three decades of teaching at St. Mary of the Mills School, Brant said she would not have chosen to teach anywhere else. “When I first started teaching here, I felt like this is the place for me, both in school and outside of school.”

“I am glad to be part of this outstanding community. I love St. Mary’s and everyone here,” she said. “I teach my students a lot of things, but I hope my students leave my classroom with the number one message to love one another.”

Brant and her fellow Golden Apple Award winners will be honored at a May 16 dinner hosted by Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Each will receive a $5,000 prize, along with a golden apple, pin and certificate.

The Golden Apple Awards, sponsored by the Donahue Family Foundation, honors outstanding Catholic school teachers in this archdiocese, and several other dioceses in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Children at St. Mary of the Mills School in Laurel hold apples during the surprise announcement on April 3 that Christine Brant, a kindergarten teacher at St. Mary's, is one of 11 Golden Apple Award winning teachers from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington for 2019. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)