The Archdiocese of Omaha will honor eight Catholic educators Thursday at its 35th annual Archbishop's Dinner for Education.
Each honoree will receive a $5,000 award. The dinner, to be held at the Embassy Suites in La Vista, provides an opportunity to honor educators, and thank those who support the schools and raise funds for the awards and for scholarships for low-income students. Dollars raised for scholarships are matched by the Children's Scholarship Fund.
Tickets are available for $125. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Donna Erker at 402-827-3757 or email@example.com.
The evening begins with a social hour at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and a brief program at 7 p.m.
The awards are presented to administrators, teachers, and inner-city and special education teachers.
Administrators of the year
» Cheryl Zoucha, principal, St. Bonaventure, Columbus., Neb.
Zoucha, who has served as St. Bonaventure's principal for eight years, has started faith-sharing sessions for staff after school and encouraged teachers to create a goal for religious growth in addition to professional development growth. She also is known for working to ensure that the school provides a welcoming environment for students, staff and parents.
With a background in technology, she has focused on keeping the school's computers updated. She started a fundraising effort for computer upgrades that brought in $60,000 in three years. She also hopes to add iPads. She has pushed for a comprehensive plan to improve reading instruction, including training teachers in a research-based reading program and improved student-assessment methods. School facilities also have been upgraded under her tenure.
» Sandra Suiter, principal, St. Robert Bellarmine, Omaha.
Suiter, who has been an administrator for 15 years, is described as bringing to her job a desire to motivate and improve performance of both students and teachers. She holds high expectations for students and is committed to maintaining a strong curriculum that prepares students for high school and beyond.
A number of nominators noted her dedication to adapting teaching techniques to a variety of learning abilities. “She is a firm believer in taking a child where he or she is and allowing each one to excel,” said Barbara Goodrich, a middle school teacher at St. Robert. “She has made it a goal to provide the necessary resources for those students who face challenges.”
Secondary teachers of the year
» Marsha Stewart, biology and advanced placement classes, Norfolk Catholic High School, Norfolk, Neb.
In addition to her 39 years of teaching experience, 24 of them at Norfolk Catholic, Stewart continues to further her own education. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology with endorsements in elementary and gifted education from Wayne State College and a master's of science from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and she has received extended study grants from five colleges and universities.
She has high expectations for her students and has set up study groups and hands-on activities to make science a real-world experience. She also is praised for her ability to incorporate contemporary teaching methods with technology.
» Connie Cavel, English, Marian High School, Omaha.
Cavel, a 1968 alumna, is known for being passionate about teaching English. When she graduated, she reportedly told the principal to save a place for her on the faculty. She joined that faculty in 1972 and estimates that she has taught nearly 7,000 students in her 41 years at the school.
She has taught a wide range of classes in literature. Through her classes and studies of the classics, she opens the minds of her students to the lessons of history and the art of writing, helping to shape their independent thinking skills, said Doreen Griffith, a Marian board member, alumna and parent.
Cavel said her teaching career at Marian has been more than a job. “It is my passion and my joy,” she said. “It is I who am blessed.”
Elementary educators of the year
» Jane Knobbe, second grade, Guardian Angels Central Catholic, West Point, Neb.
Knobbe dreamed of becoming a teacher like her grandmother from the time she was a girl and has been doing so for 26 years. She has been teaching second grade at Guardian Angels for 22 of them, where she is lauded as a compassionate and caring instructor.
She has a strong commitment to Catholic education and each year prepares her students for the sacraments of First Eucharist and First Reconciliation. She volunteers to do the same for religious education students.
» Mary Mimick, second grade, St. Wenceslaus, Omaha.
Growing up one of eight children, Mimick said working with children was second nature. She has been teaching for 30 years, including 19 at St. Wenceslaus.
She's known as a role model for staff and administrators at the school as well as throughout the archdiocese, said Principal William Huben. Second-grade teachers from other schools visit her classroom to observe a well-organized, prepared classroom and teacher. She describes preparing her students for the sacraments as one of the best aspects of her job and one that has strengthened her own faith.
Special education and inner-city teachers of the year
» Paula Kuebler, second grade, St. Augustine Indian Mission School, Winnebago, Neb.
A teacher at the school since 1999, Kuebler has taught third grade for nine years and second grade for three years. She is described as a model of professionalism and dedication in a school where students of varied abilities and backgrounds can present challenges. “I have never known Ms. Kuebler to back away from a challenge or shy away from tasks that seem overwhelming,” said Principal Donald Blackbird.
Kuebler also helps after school wherever there is a need, including getting involved in a science program for elementary students, chaperoning field trips, refinishing pews in the church and painting a mural in the school hallway. As one colleague said, “Ms. Kuebler is the epitome of ‘above and beyond.'''
» Mary Lynn Bennett, music therapist, Madonna School, Omaha.
Bennett started the music therapy program at the school for students with special needs in 2008. Through music therapy, students can learn communication skills, develop social skills and enhance academic skills to improve reading and math. This fall, the Madonna School will offer the first internship program in Nebraska.
Bennett also is involved in the school's joint research program with the University of Notre Dame. The program uses a robot to encourage positive behavior and improve communication skills among autistic students.
“What distinguishes Mary Lynn is the calm and comforting presence she brings to a frequently high-intensity profession,” said Principal William Goodwin.
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