The theater of Sacred Heart School in Washington, D.C. shone with gold as Grace Bogosian, the first and second grade English teacher at the school, was met with a loud cheer of “surprise!” on the morning of March 27. Bogosian was one of the 11 teachers chosen from the 92 schools in the Archdiocese of Washington to receive a 2019 Golden Apple Award for her dedication to the mission of Catholic Education.

Grace Bogosian (Archdiocese of Washington photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

As she walked through the center of the room, students waived gold pompoms and held up cutouts of big apples covered in gold glitter. Jem Sullivan, the Archdiocese of Washington's Secretary for Catholic Education; Elise Heil, the principal of Sacred Heart School; and Rosio Gonzalez, the president of the Consortium of Catholic Academies; all congratulated Bogosian on her award and thanked her for her dedication to teaching.

“Miss Bogosian is the perfect Golden Apple winner because she exemplifies everything that is great about Catholic school educators,” said Heil. “She is very committed to the faith and knows that it is not just about learning about God; it is experiencing God every day in our classrooms and having that encounter with Him, not only through each other but through our teachers and our parents and our priests.”

Students at Sacred Heart School cheer for their teacher, Grace Bogosian. (Archdiocese of Washington photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Sacred Heart School has a bilingual curriculum, so Bogosian has the first grade every other day and the second grade on the opposite days, and teaches the students their lessons in English. On the days when they are not in Bogosian’s classroom, they are with another teacher who teaches the same lessons in Spanish.

As a part of the Consortium of Catholic Academies, a network of four Catholic elementary schools in Washington, D.C., Sacred Heart serves many students who are English language learners from immigrant families, and Heil said Bogosian has made it “part of her vocation” to reach all of her students.

“Miss Bogosian is committed to teaching all of God’s children. So any child who wants a Catholic education is welcome in Miss Bogosian’s classroom,” said Heil. “She is a highly trained and highly certified educator, and part of the reason why she cares so much about being a great teacher is so she can truly reach and serve everybody.”

First grade student Sasha Sanchez said she likes Miss Bogosian because she helps her read.

“I don’t know how to read so much, so she helps me,” she said.

Grace Bogosian reads to her second grade class at Sacred Heart School on March 27. (Archdiocese of Washington photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Not only does Bogosian view it as her vocation to serve her students, but also she views it as her job to help her students discover their own vocation and call to serve others.

“My faith helps me to teach every day, because what I am trying to instill in our youngest learners is the essence of serving,” she said. “We are here, each of us, to serve, and my vocation is to serve these children, but it is [also] my job to help them find their vocation, who are they going to be serving in our community, and we are able to do that by Jesus’s example of His service and His love.”

That service starts inside of the classroom, where if a child is having a bad day, their name goes into a “support box,” which is used to both encourage them to do something to better themselves and to encourage their classmates to help them. Outside of the classroom, the students are encouraged to serve their community through projects like picking up litter and helping to restock the pantry for the Scared Heart dinner program.

“My son has been really proud to be Catholic,” said Amanda Lawrence, whose son is in second grade. “…He comes home and he’s telling me what they learned in school, and he applies these lessons to everyday life. He’ll see someone homeless on the street and say, ‘Mom, when we walk by, we should smile.’…It helps build him spiritually and build his character and helps him become a good person someday, and that is thanks to Miss Bogosian.”

Sacred Heart students celebrate their teacher's award with both golden and real apples on March 27. (Archdiocese of Washington photo/ Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Part of the first and second grade curriculum at the school is preparing children to receive First Communion, and Lawrence said having Bogosian teach that subject has been “a huge blessing in our lives.”

“She has gone above and beyond to teach our children love, empathy, compassion, to really connect the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Catholic Church to the students in a modern way so they understand what it means to help others, what it means to have forgiveness in their lives, and connect these lessons of Reconciliation and First Communion to their own world,” she said.

That aligns well with Bogosian’s goal as an educator, as she said her one hope for her students when they leave her class is “that they are compassionate citizens of our world.”

“Our faith really helps develop that,” she said. “…I want them to leave knowing that they have agency to make change, but that change comes from a place of love and a place of kindness.”

Grace Bogosian hugs one of her students after learning that she had received a 2019 Golden Apple Award. (Archdiocese of Washington photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)