Sunday, 18 April 2021 17:44

Honoring our teachers

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Presenting the second annual St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award

We asked everyone from across the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois what Catholic teacher in our schools is making a big difference in the classroom? What teacher goes above and beyond, someone whose impact is deep and personal? What teacher authentically lives out what it means to be Catholic and instills our faith into his or her students? What teacher embodies St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded Catholic schools in the United States?

The Office for Catholic Schools and Office for Communications for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, organizers of the award, received nearly 100 nominations from principals, teachers, parents, priests, previous students, and current students this year. In all, 36 teachers were nominated — from all corners of our diocese. A team consisting of former educators in our diocese poured through the nominations and read all the stories of impact about each teacher, narrowing the list to five finalists, who Catholic Times presents in this edition along with quotes taken from nomination forms. Catholic Times will reveal the winner of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award in the May 16 edition. Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination and thank you to all our teachers who work so hard!

Melissa Taylor

Melissa TaylorFifth-grade teacher
Little Flower School, Springfield

“In 2016, we lost our daughter, Jennifer Harrison. She and her husband, Jim, had a daughter, Ella, who was 10 years old at the time. It is hard to put into words how important Mrs. Taylor was the first year after Jennifer’s death. She provided comfort, security, love, and compassion to Ella, while bringing her class together to do the same, which blossomed throughout the school. She kept us abreast of Ella’s good days and bad days. She provided her phone number so we could stay in close contact. Mrs. Taylor is not the only person at Little Flower that surrounded Ella through eighth grade, but she was the shining star during a very critical time in Ella’s life. Ella has grown into a beautiful, well rounded, kind, and compassionate young lady, now a student at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. We credit Mrs. Taylor, her professionalism and love of God, in instilling these important attributes in Ella. Little Flower was our village. We will be forever grateful.”

— Family member

“Mrs. Taylor is loved by parents and students alike. As a Little Flower parishioner, she serves as a eucharistic minister for school and weekend Masses. As the fifth-grade teacher, she prepares her students for future academic success by involving them in research assignments, which are built around deadlines, and which develop good study habits, organizational skills, and self-reliance. Mrs. Taylor is the administrator or the school’s before and after school childcare programs and our very successful LFS Summer Camp. She also is a coach in our IESA Volleyball program. Melissa Taylor has manifested the Little Flower Spirit in incalculable ways over the past 20 years.”

— Colleague

Morgan Ambrose

morgan ambroseSecond-grade teacher
Blessed Sacrament School, Springfield

“Mrs. Ambrose has a love for teaching and does so with dedication and passion for God. She has prepared her students not only for first Communion but also confirmation. As a parent of a second- grade student, I felt that confirmation and the idea of the Holy Spirit would be too difficult to understand at this age. However, Mrs. Ambrose’s teachings of faith have been age-appropriate and phenomenal. My son comes home every night with faith-based projects, rosaries, and inspirational quotes. He has discussions with our family about the Bible and Jesus’ teachings. His growth and love for religion has grown over the course of this school year. In her classroom, Mrs. Ambrose not only teaches Catholic values, but also sets an example for her students to follow. She is warm and caring. She sets a tone of positivity and creativity within her classroom. She encourages each student to reach for the stars and strive to be the best person. She always greets them with a smile and loving hand. With COVID, this year has been different and difficult, but Mrs. Ambrose has been a shining light in my student’s life.”

— Parent of student

“Mrs. Ambrose is a teacher that consistently is there to make sure her students succeed in all things presented to them. In second grade, you go through such a change academically that sometimes can discourage a child. Mrs. Ambrose consistently reminds and provides words of faith to bring kids through their woes. Her faith is so strong in everything she presents to the class. My child has gained such strong faith from being with Mrs. Ambrose day to day.”

— Parent of student

Arlis DeJaynes

Arlis DeJaynesEnglish teacher/department head
St. Teresa High School, Decatur

“Mrs. DeJaynes not only inspires students every day through her faith, she encouraged me to become a teacher. Now, I currently teach theology at St. Teresa with Mrs. DeJaynes. She encourages her students to analyze complex concepts, write profound papers, and develop critical skills to perform well in college. On top of that, and most importantly, Mrs. DeJaynes teaches her students to thrive not just academically but in their faith life. Every lesson, she found a way to interweave a lesson of faith combined with English. Not many teachers are comparable to her. The amount of students she has helped prosper and inspired are countless.”

— Previous student and current colleague

“Her warmth and wit made class enjoyable and created some of the fondest in-class memories from high school that I have. While I had great classmates to make class enjoyable, the one constant was Mrs. DeJaynes’ love for teaching, literature, and most importantly, her love for God. Whether pointing out the religious importance of a book like A prayer for Owen Meany or pausing class to insert a personal anecdote on her experiences with God, her fervent faith was always on display. I might have learned how to write a good five paragraph essay from her class, but more importantly, my faith is better because of it.”

— Previous student

Shauna Albert

Shauna AlbertSixth-grade teacher
Sacred Heart School, Effingham

“Shauna stands out as one of our exceptional teachers. Her small stature and calm voice are marks of her ‘quiet strength’ which engages her students to openly discuss any issues or concerns. She has command of her classroom and the students respect her. Shauna is quick to volunteer her time and talent for committees at school and church. In addition to being a dedicated teacher, Shauna is currently the coordinator of the Mass servers, a job that has not been ideal during this past year due to the COVID-related restrictions. Shauna has persevered in keeping the kids involved in serving, while monitoring and updating them of all the changes. Shauna is a role model to her students in school. Last year, one of her students who wasn’t Catholic, approached her about joining the church. The student’s excitement grew in learning more about the Catholic faith and she joined the Catholic Church this Easter, choosing Shauna as her sponsor.”

— Colleague

“Shauna is a true asset for Sacred Heart School. I have come to rely on her for her integrity and true desire to motivate our students in both their faith and academic excellence. Shauna does an excellent job of integrating Catholic values in all curricular areas. She is a very responsible teacher, always willing to do what is needed for the best interest of her students. Shauna is always open and eager to discover new techniques and procedures. She seeks opportunities for her students to live their faith, whether it be in organizing service projects or opportunities for devotion. Her cheerful, respectful rapport with both students and staff is constant. She is a wonderful model for her students.”

— Colleague

Donna Richmiller

Donna RichmillerEighth-grade teacher
St. Dominic School, Quincy

“Mrs. Richmiller empowers students to strive for academic excellence with a focus on how to live as disciples of Christ and Catholic stewards of time, talent, and treasure. Mrs. Richmiller loves her students and colleagues well. Most importantly, she makes time to go to be with students and colleagues when something is going on their lives. There are many stories about Mrs. Richmiller showing up for state championships, graduations, weddings, illness, car accidents, death, and funerals. She is a champion for encouraging our students to attend Quincy Notre Dame High School. No matter what, when something is going on in their life, she is willing to stand by their side to comfort or to celebrate; to pray or to rejoice; to provide a shoulder to lean on or to encourage them to be strong; to cry or to laugh. Whatever the case, she provides steadfast love and mercy.”

— Colleague

“Donna has been an educator for the past 35 years. She is totally dedicated to her students. She holds them to the highest standard, but always with love and respect for every student. Each year, former students return to St. Dominic School just to visit with her and to thank her for all she has done for them. She is not only an outstanding educator, but an exceptional colleague and a true friend.” 

— Colleague