Laurie Maier, a middle school math and science teacher at St. Mary School in Landover Hills, Maryland, sees teaching – particularly in a Catholic school – as a mission to which she has been called.

“Children deserve an opportunity to learn, and we have to give them a potential and a plan of action for their future,” she said. “We are fortunate to be in a Catholic school where we can refer to Jesus and His teaching.”

Her dedication to teaching has been recognized by the Archdiocese of Washington.

Maier is one of 11 Archdiocese of Washington educators 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.

“I am exuberant with joy,” she said when she was surprised with the award during a school assembly March 28. “What an honor, especially when you think of how many wonderful teachers there are in the archdiocese.”

Prior to teaching at St. Mary’s, Maier spent three years teaching at Holy Family School in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, for a total of 36 years in Catholic education.

“It is important for me to teach in a Catholic school. Teaching is a vocation that I feel called to,” she said. “In Catholic education, I feel like I receive more than I am given. It is very validating and affirming, and this is where I belong.”

Such a career runs in the family. Her mother – Catherine Stascavage –was a teacher for 25 years at St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie, Maryland. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher like my mother, and I knew I wanted to teach in a Catholic school,” she said.

LaSandra Hayes, principal of the school, called Maier “such an incredible educator and such an incredible person.”

Hayes said that while Maier often gives up her free time, including lunch and student recess, to assist and tutor her students, her care for them extends beyond the classroom.

“At Christmas, those students who she knows won’t have Christmas presents, she will buy presents for them and deliver them anonymously on Christmas Eve,” Hayes said of Maier.

Hayes said Maier also shows “outstanding commitment to social action.” She noted that her teacher volunteers to assist the elderly, including taking them shopping, shoveling snow for persons who cannot do it for themselves and serving the needy.

Mary Anne Patchan, who retired as principal of St. Mary School in 1998 and who originally hired Maier, said the Golden Apple Award “is well deserved.”

“Ms. Maier is a fabulous teacher. I knew she was an award-winner 33 years ago when I hired her,” Patchan said. “It is a treat to walk into her classroom and watch her teach.”

Chenlle Raghunanan, an eighth grade student, described her award-winning teacher as “very creative and very adventurous in the way she teaches.”

“She doesn’t just teach from a text; she makes it interesting. She is a tough teacher for our benefit, and she helped me reach my goal, which is to succeed,” Chenlle said. “I am very grateful for everything she has done for us.”

Fellow eighth-grader Kayla Donaldson agreed with her classmate.

“Ms. Maier is creative and she is fairly tough because she has high expectations for us,” Kayla said. “She puts a lot of her own time into helping others, and I want her to know she is appreciated and loved.”

Father Evelio Menjivar, pastor of the parish, praised Maier for her “devotion to the noble vocation of teaching” and said that she is “dedicated to the intellectual, moral and personal growth of our students.”

“Ms. Maier constantly strives to instill in her students a healthy intellectual curiosity and love for learning,” he said. “She challenges them to give more of themselves in service to others.”

Father Menjivar called Maier “a demanding, tough teacher because she want students to give their best. The students know she wants the best for them, and they love her for it.”

He added that through Maier’s more than three decades at St. Mary School, she “has proven what a great difference one person can make in the life of a child.”

Constance Herasingh, the mother of fifth- and seventh-grade students at St. Mary’s, nominated Maier for the award because “I truly appreciate her dedication, not just to my children, but to all the students.”

“My daughter flourished under Ms. Maier’s care,” Herasingh said. “She has a higher expectation of her students. As a parent, you want a teacher like that, one who does not accept mediocrity and who wants students to do their best.”

In addition to her teaching duties, Maier is moderator of the school’s chapter of the Junior National Honor Society and teaches golf.

“Golf is like the game of life,” Maier said, “Sometimes you do something well and wind up with disastrous results. Sometimes you do something disastrous and wind up with good results. It’s all about how you deal with adversity.”

Maier and her fellow Golden Apple Award winners will be honored at a 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. 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.