Schools, teachers honored at kickoff event

By Linda Caldwell, special to the Florida Catholic – August 16, 2017

ORLANDO | More than 1,250 educators packed into Holy Family Parish on Aug. 7 for the Office of Catholic Schools’ annual “Educator Kickoff Day.” Centered on the theme, “You are Bread for the World,” the event offered teachers and administrators of the Diocese of Orlando’s 42 Catholic schools and early learning centers a time for worship, fellowship, learning and recognition.

Among the highlights of the day was the presentation of the Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta Award. The award is presented annually to one parish and one Catholic high school that demonstrate the compassion and corporal works of mercy exemplified by Saint Mother Teresa. This year’s award went to St. Joseph Catholic School in Palm Bay and Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland.

St. Joseph Catholic School was recognized for its “Gifts of Mercy” outreach to the homeless. Members of the parish and school communities prayed and worked together to collect undershirts, socks, bath towels, cloths, and personal hygiene items for the marginalized in their town. The student council members, who organized the project within the school, also gave their peers the names of the homeless people they were helping.

“Saint Joseph Catholic School and Church are so excited to receive this award. Since it was a cooperative effort to help the homeless, we are proud that this project was recognized,” said Claudia Stokes, principal. “This award just encourages our community to continue giving!”

Members of Santa Fe Catholic High School’s “Serving for Christ” mentoring program and the National Honor Society collaborated on a project called, “Bedtime Bags.” The students reached out to Florida First Start to identify 19 impoverished and at-risk children. The goal of the Bedtime Bags program was to help promote healthy bedtime routines that bring families together.

Every Bedtime Bag consisted of: pajamas, a storybook, stuffed animal/toy, blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste and bath products. Each mentor group received information about their child to help personalize the gifts. The parent Bedtime Bags replaced the toy and book with a Christmas movie, snacks for the movie, slippers, and a gift card to Publix. The Bedtime Bags were prepared for delivery by members of the National Honor Society. The student volunteers said it was a wonderful experience.

“Winning this award is a testament to our amazing faculty, staff and student body,” said Matt Franzino, principal. “We teach our students to always put others before themselves, and without fail, they seek opportunities, such as this project, to put their faith in action.”

The culminating point of the awards ceremony was the presentation of the 2017 Jenni Heneghan Catholic School Leadership Award, named in honor of the late principal of All Souls Catholic School. The award is presented annually to an educator who exemplifies the spirit, faith life and professionalism of Heneghan. Sandra Basinger, principal of St. Mary Catholic School in Rockledge, graciously accepted the award from Bishop John Noonan and Superintendent Henry Fortier, as well as from Heneghan’s husband, Bobby, and son, Colin.

“Receiving the Jenni Heneghan Award is truly humbling,” Basinger said. “All principals in the Diocese of Orlando are outstanding, faith-filled people who work tirelessly for the good of their schools.  As Catholic leaders, we all are privileged to spread the Good News of Jesus to our school communities every day.  It is a blessing to be recognized among these wonderful leaders.”

Each school also recognized one teacher from its community at the diocesan kickoff day. The 2017 Distinguished Teacher Award winners are:

Elementary/Middle Schools

  • Teresa Vogt, All Souls Catholic School, Sanford
  • Barbara Aziz, Annunciation Catholic Academy, Altamonte Springs
  • Agnes Owens, Ascension Catholic School, Melbourne
  • Andrea Rivera-Bonilla, Basilica School of St. Paul, Daytona Beach
  • Veronica Chancery, Blessed Trinity Catholic School, Ocala
  • Elizabeth Moore, Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, Merritt School
  • Mary Iaccarino, Good Shepherd Catholic School, Orlando
  • Mary McCrory, Holy Family Catholic School, Orlando
  • Gretchen Solar, Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School, Indialantic
  • Jean Morgan, Holy Redeemer Catholic School, Kissimmee
  • Michelle Watkins, Lourdes Academy, Daytona Beach
  • Patricia O’Day, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, Melbourne
  • Lauren Housman, Our Saviour Catholic School, Cocoa Beach
  • Jackie Finochiarro, Catholic School, Lakeland
  • Andrea Bosma, Sacred Heart Catholic School, New Smyrna Beach
  • Diane Etheridge, St. Andrew Catholic School, Orlando
  • Catherine Wilson, St. Anthony Catholic School, Lakeland
  • Shawnda Shaughnessy, St. Brendan Catholic School, Ormond Beach
  • Lillie Gelfand, Charles Borromeo Catholic School, Orlando
  • Marcia Ochinero, St. James Cathedral School, Orlando
  • Bibiana Fernandez, St. John Vianney Catholic School, Orlando
  • Stephanie Ellerbe, St. Joseph Academy, Lakeland
  • Ronda Degnan, St. Joseph Catholic School, Palm Bay
  • Lori Edwards, St. Joseph Catholic School, Winter Haven
  • Jackie Munoz, St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, Winter Park
  • Julia Ekhlassi, St. Mary Catholic School, Rockledge
  • Lauren Schellenberg, Mary Magdalen Catholic School, Altamonte Springs
  • Sissy Revord, St. Paul Catholic School, Leesburg
  • Brunilda Jerez, St. Peter Catholic School, Deland
  • Charlene Voss, St. Teresa Catholic School, Titusville
  • Donna Quinn, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, St. Cloud

High Schools

  • Paul O’Grady, Bishop Moore Catholic High School, Orlando
  • Anita Kealer, Central Catholic High School, Melbourne
  • Edward Miller, Father Lopez Catholic High School, Daytona Beach
  • Diane Skalski, Santa Fe Catholic High School, Lakeland
  • Adam Long, Trinity Catholic High School, Ocala