CS PHOTO BY BRIAN SEARBY

Golden Apple award-winning teachers from left to right: Justin McClain, Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville; Kenneth Scheiber, St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown; Judith S. Horne, St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington; Nicole Hayes, St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School in Camp Springs; Michelle Morning, St. Michael School in Ridge; Elizabeth Scribner, Holy Redeemer School in College Park; Hannah Ruckstuhl, St. Mary of the Assumption School in Upper Marlboro; Jennifer Massey, Mary of Nazareth School in Darnestown; Marlene Aguilar-Nahas, Our Lady of Victory School in Washington; and Michelle Truss, St. Mary’s School in Bryantown.
CS PHOTO BY BRIAN SEARBY Golden Apple award-winning teachers from left to right: Justin McClain, Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville; Kenneth Scheiber, St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown; Judith S. Horne, St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington; Nicole Hayes, St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School in Camp Springs; Michelle Morning, St. Michael School in Ridge; Elizabeth Scribner, Holy Redeemer School in College Park; Hannah Ruckstuhl, St. Mary of the Assumption School in Upper Marlboro; Jennifer Massey, Mary of Nazareth School in Darnestown; Marlene Aguilar-Nahas, Our Lady of Victory School in Washington; and Michelle Truss, St. Mary’s School in Bryantown.

While the Mayflower Hotel in Washington may differ from the classrooms that Golden Apple teachers spend their days in, Father Kevin Regan, the master of ceremonies for the 2017 Golden Apple Awards dinner, noted that it is actually in a building that housed a Catholic school from 1870-1922.

“The venue has been providentially selected,” he told the educators, friends and family who were gathered in the hotel’s ballroom on May 4. “We sit and stand in the rich tradition of Catholic education.”

The 10 teachers from across the Archdiocese of Washington had found out about their award a few weeks previously during surprise announcements at their schools. During the dinner, the teachers were able to watch a video of the different announcements, and Cardinal Wuerl presented each of them with a Golden Apple and a check for $5,000.

The Golden Apple Awards are made possible through the Donahue Family Foundation, which was established to honor outstanding teachers who devote their lives to teaching in Catholic schools.

Throughout the evening, Father Regan – the pastor of Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights – gave lighthearted suggestions for how the teachers could spend their $5,000 award, which ranged from going on a seven day cruise with Disney cruise line to buying 2,000 boxes of tissues for their classroom.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, noted how appropriate it was that they were having this celebration in the middle of the Easter season, because of two refrains that are repeated frequently during this time: “Christ is risen” and “You will be my witnesses.” The teachers being honored that night, the cardinal said, are witnesses of Christ to their students.

“Some way the next generation needs to come to know [Jesus]…needs to come to encounter Him,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “…Isn’t that the reason we have schools? Catholic education in all of its forms has at its goal” sharing the person and the message of Jesus, the cardinal said.  

Kenneth Scheiber, a theology and social studies teacher at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, accepted the award on behalf of all of the teachers, speaking about his motivation as a Catholic school teacher.

Quoting Pontius Pilate, who asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Scheiber said this question is also on the minds of high school students.

“The success or failure of teachers hinges on their ability to address that question in the minds of students,” he said.

Scheiber quoted an article that his grandpa wrote in Our Sunday Visitor, where he said he didn’t think Catholic schools are ever going to go out of business, because they were built and maintained by people who had little more than a belief in their necessity.

Catholic education, while sometimes challenging, has several advantages, Scheiber said. It has a 2,000-year-old tradition, so “any challenge we face today has an analog somewhere in the past,” he said, and, “We have the truth.”

“Divine revelation through Jesus Christ and human reason work together to give us a full view of the universe,” he added. “…Good education specifically seeks to engage the soul.”

For many teachers like himself, Scheiber said this overlap between faith and reason “renders it difficult for us to teach anywhere except a Catholic school.”