Jennifer Massey is a middle school science teacher at Mary of Nazareth School, Darnestown. She is passionate about her subject, but her ultimate goal, she said, is to help her students each be a better person. “Then I teach them science along the way, too,” she said.

Massey is one of 10 winners of the Archdiocese of Washington’s prestigious annual Golden Apple Award, which recognizes excellence among archdiocesan Catholic school teachers.

A native of Poolesville, Massey, 38, grew up the oldest of three siblings in Our Lady of the Presentation Parish. After her graduation from Hood College in Frederick, Massey first worked as a long-term substitute teacher in the Montgomery County Public Schools.

At the encouragement of her father, Massey applied for a teaching job at Mary of Nazareth School. Now in her 14th year of teaching there, Massey said she cannot imagine teaching anywhere else and describes her school community as a second family to her.

“Being in a Catholic school, there is a camaraderie based on faith,” she said. “People are willing to go the extra mile for each other.”

After the sudden death of her younger sister this past fall, Massey said she experienced firsthand her school family “going the extra mile” for her. She said she would never forget the way the school rallied around her and supported her following the tragedy.

“I realized this is why I’m here. I’ve always had great relationships with my colleagues, the parents and students, but when my world was turned upside down, there was a constant I could depend on and it was Mary of Nazareth School,” she said.

Father Raymond Fecteau, pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation Parish, Darnestown, one of seven upper Montgomery County parishes which sponsor Mary of Nazareth School, praised Massey as a role model of faith.

“I have known and observed Jennifer at our school over several years. She gives strong and ongoing witness of the Catholic faith to her colleagues, to her students and her students’ parents,” the priest said.

Michael Friel, principal of Mary of Nazareth School, praised Massey for her leadership, teamwork and teaching skills. “She goes above and beyond. She is devoted to her craft. She is devoted to the kids,” Friel said. “She is an asset to our school.”

On a daily basis, Massey, who also serves as the middle school coordinator, teaches 170 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. The curriculum covers earth and space, life science, physics and chemistry, as well as an annual science fair.

“I like teaching it all. There are so many concepts that cross all the subjects. I wish there was more time in the day,” she said.

Massey, a certified archdiocesan catechist, said working in a Catholic school has enriched her faith beyond measure. She said she feels privileged to help her Mary of Nazareth students, especially through the study of science, grow in their faith and see the world through that faith.

“In science, it’s all about the wonders of what God has created,” she said.