For Jennifer Whelan, a math and science teacher at St. Columba School in Oxon Hill, Catholic education runs in the family. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth (Liz) Whelan is principal of St. Peter School in Olney.

The younger Whelan not only followed in her mother’s footsteps, but has excelled in her profession. Whelan, who has taught at St. Columba since 2010, was recently honored as one of 10 Archdiocese of Washington Catholic school teachers to be named as a Golden Apple Award winner.

The annual award recognizes a teacher’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching. Whelan is the first teacher from St. Columba to win the award in the 10 years that it has been given out in the archdiocese.

“I am overwhelmed. I love teaching in a Catholic school because here I can teach about my faith, live my faith and discuss my faith,” Whelan said. “Here, faith is a part of everything we do.

Being a teacher at a Catholic school is important to Whelan, she said, because “I love to share my faith, and here, we can share it everywhere – in the classroom, in the hallway, at lunch and at recess.”

So important is the Catholic faith to Whelan that she is standing as a Confirmation sponsor for one of her eighth-grade students.

We can share faith everywhere here – in the classroom, in the hallway, at lunch and a recess.

“Miss Whelan is not only a part of the school, but also embraces the parish community. She serves as a faithful, servant leader role model to our staff and students, said Father Gary Villanueva, pastor of St. Columba Church. “We have one of the best teachers in the archdiocese.”

That sentiment was echoed by Katrina Fernandez, principal of the school.

“We are very blessed to have Miss Whelan. She works very hard and is an irreplaceable team player,” Fernandez said. “She is a bright spot in our faculty and the kids love her.”

Liz Whelan said, “I am very proud of my daughter. She works very hard and loves the children of St. Columba.”

Whelan and her fellow Golden Apple honorees will be recognized by Cardinal Donald Wuerl at a May10 awards dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

The Golden Apple Award was established in this archdiocese more than 10 years ago through the generous support of the Pittsburgh-based Donahue Family Foundation established by Jack and Rhodora Donahue, who sent their 13 children through Catholic schools and created the award to show appreciation for Catholic school teachers who provide a quality academic and faith-filled education to their students.