Three educators receive top honors for excellence and leadership

Three Catholic educators have earned accolades as examples of 21st century teaching. One administrator and two teachers, one representing high schools and another elementary, were honored by Bishop John Noonan at an awards luncheon celebrating the school system’s best.

 “You are a gift of faith to the young people of our Diocese of Orlando,” Bishop Noonan said. “Your faith is undeterred as you lead our young people to understand the fullness of God’s love. You help our young people to be freed by the Gospel so that they might pick up their mat and walk among us as Disciples of Christ.”

A veteran educator with more than 40 years of experience was recognized as top administrator. A teacher with 11 years in the classroom and a teacher who is relatively new to the job took home Teacher of the Year honors.

Bishop Noonan presented Annunciation Catholic Academy’s founding principal, Dr. Margaret Curran, with Administrator of the Year Award for her unequivocal commitment to educating the whole child and for establishing a curriculum that addresses “every intellectual need of the children” that goes beyond the typical elementary and middle school curricula according to her multiple nominations.

“I have been humbled by the opportunities the Lord has given me to learn many lessons,” said Dr. Curran, who is a member of the National Catholic Educational Association. “I hope I have been able to share them in some small way with those He has entrusted to my care in Catholic education.”

The nominations for both teachers of the year pointed to major contributions to the success and continuation of academic excellence at their schools as well.

“His role as campus minister has changed the culture of Melbourne Central Catholic High School (MCC),” said Principal Tom Armstrong “As campus minister and religion department head, Daniel has revitalized the Catholicity at our school.”

“How we educate our children is important when we approach what it means to be Catholic educators,” said Daniel Ensell, High School Teacher of the Year. “Students may only spend one hour in theology courses … but the lessons they learn should be applied to all they do.”

Ensell, who is receiving his M.A. in religious studies from Fordham University, created a house system at MCC. All students are randomly assigned a “house” and they seek to earn points for their “house” with good grades, good behavior and participation. The creative and competitive environment has further encouraged the sense of community in an already positive environment.

Barbara Schirard, who teaches science at All Souls Catholic School in Sanford, was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year. According to the nomination, Schirard was the driving force behind the flourishing science program at All Souls when taking the program over mid-year three years ago.

“It was a mission she dove in head first and moved the children forward, spiritually and academically,” the nomination read.

“Part of growing the whole child is encouraging them to be leaders,” Schirard said. “As a student council advisor … I work to model what a leader should be—prepared, organized and someone who brings ideas to the table. Most importantly I try to model leadership the way Christ led, by listening and guiding with compassion and love.”

Henry Fortier, superintendent of schools and secretary of faith formation for the Diocese of Orlando, who oversees 37 schools educating more than 14,000 students, said the quality of the nominees were a testament to the Catholic education system.

“This ceremony not only highlights the individual achievements of the awardees but speaks to the overall quality of a Catholic education,” Fortier said. “The commitment of our educational professionals is something extraordinary. Our teachers and administrators are teaching to a higher standard. They are teaching to the test of a Christian life—that mission is why we are so successful in teaching the academic part. It’s why our students graduate from Catholic schools to perform at the very highest levels wherever they find themselves.”

Award Recipients and Finalists
Administrator of the Year

Finalists: Mrs. Geraldine Gendall, Principal of St. James Cathedral School in Orlando and Mrs. Kathleen Walsh, Principal of St. Margaret Mary Catholic School in Winter Park

Winner: Dr. Margaret Curran, Principal of Annunciation Catholic Academy in Altamonte Springs

High School Teacher of the Year

Finalists: Mr. William Burns, Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala and Mrs. Roberta Snyder, Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach

Winner: Mr. Daniel Ensell, Central Catholic High School in Melbourne

Elementary School Teacher of the Year

Finalists: Mrs. Helen Del Rey, Annunciation Catholic Academy in Altamonte Springs and Mrs. Deborah Hempstead, Good Shepherd Catholic School in Orlando

Winner: Mrs. Barbara Schirard, All Souls Catholic School in Sanford