Michelle Truss, who teaches fifth grade at St. Mary’s School in Bryantown, is known for putting a smile on her students’ faces. On April 5, they got to return the favor as she walked into the school’s main hall to the sound of the school’s band and the students cheering, “Let’s go Mrs. Truss!” as they waved gold pompoms.

After Truss saw the sign congratulating her on winning a 2017 Golden Apple Award, Wendy Anderson, associate superintendent of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic schools, made the official announcement. Truss’s husband and two of her children presented her with flowers, her fifth grade students gave her a basket of apples, and the school gave her a second basket full of chocolate.

“Mrs. Truss makes all the students laugh,” said Gio Guadagnoli, a fifth grader in her class.

“They are happy to be in the class any time you go in there,” said Sharon Caniglia, the school’s principal. One of the reasons for this, she added, is her active and engaging lesson plans.

When she prepares her lesson plans, Truss said she “thinks about the individuality of each student,” and tries to find ways to engage all different types of learners.

“I hope that when my students leave me, they leave with a sense of appreciation for who they are and who they want to be…and know God will always love them for who they are,” she said.

This spring, one of her class’s projects is creating a geometric city based on 2D and 3D shapes that they had been learning about. Truss acts as the “mayor” who the students have to submit their architectural designs to for approval.

“She is very sweet and kind, and very helpful if you need help,” said Shirley Edgerton, a student in Truss’s class, as she recalled how her teacher had helped her with a math problem.

Truss started working at St. Mary’s four years ago as a pre-kindergarten aide, then became a science teacher, and finally moved to teaching fifth grade and having a classroom of her own.

“This is a job I love and look forward to being able to come here every day,” Truss said.

Her love for her job is evident in all of the extra effort she puts into the school, serving as a basketball coordinator, relay for life coordinator, and member of the social committee, on top of teaching the fifth grade. Truss calls the community of St. Mary’s School in Bryantown her “family away from home,” and once a year she hosts the “Fall Festival” for faculty and their families, opening the doors of her house to her second family.

“She has a love of Jesus that shines through every action she does,” said Jill Rison, the school’s art teacher and instructional specialist. “She is always trying to improve... She is always striving for excellence.”

In addition to being a colleague, Truss teaches Rison’s daughter, who Rison said “comes home with a love of Jesus just like she does her education.”

Truss said she enjoys teaching at a Catholic school because it gives her the opportunity to pray with her students and “to have Jesus come into them and for them to have that comfort before a test.” She feels her faith has grown stronger as well through that practice of daily prayer.

“They may not have that time at home, but I try to make sure they have that time with me during the school day,” Truss said.

On May 4, Truss will be honored along with 9 other Golden Apple winners in the Archdiocese of Washington at a dinner hosted by Cardinal Donald Wuerl. In addition, each teacher will receive a Golden Apple and $5,000.

“If you were a parent, you would want your child in [Truss’s] classroom, because she’s the kind of teacher who cares about and loves her students,” Caniglia said.