2021 Amazing Catholic Educator Awards Announced
The Amazing Catholic Educator Award recognizes teachers, specialists and administrators across the Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD) who are creating a school culture that is proudly Catholic, academically excellent, accessible to all, and sustainable for the future. Each of the ten educators exemplifies unleashing the Gospel in their school. We are pleased to introduce you to the 2021 Amazing Catholic Educator award winners.
Please help us celebrate these amazing educators for their (109 combined!) years of faithful, inspired service to Catholic Education:
Bethany Beyer is a high schooler teacher at Brother Rice High School in the Achieve Plus Learning Center, where students who need extra support in their academic pursuits find a peaceful and calm refuge. She has been a teacher in the AOD for four years. Principal Edward Okuniewski describes her as “the most essential teacher we have at Brother Rice.” Mr. Okuniewski shares, “Bethany Beyer is the epitome of Catholic love and compassion and adeptly cultivates and develops the whole student – in mind, body, and spirit.” Bethany instills a secure sense of belonging in her students and they leave Brother Rice as confident disciples of Christ.
Deborah Sylvester is a 2nd-grade teacher at St. Stephen School in New Boston. She has taught second grade at St. Stephen for 34 years and has helped a tremendous number of students receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. Principal Christine Vaughan describes her as someone that is “more than an amazing educator. She is outstanding in her ability to work with her students and also parents and colleagues.” Mrs. Vaughan shares, “Whether we are working on accreditation, baking apple pies or working the pierogi booth, Debbie is instrumental in the success of our school.” Deborah heads the Coat Drives and the Formula/Diaper Drives that St. Stephen provides for their Christian service and the Lincoln Park Pregnancy Center.
Mary Elizabeth White is a middle school teacher at St. Clare of Montefalco in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. She teaches Reading, English, History and Religion and has taught in AOD schools for eight years. Principal Ann Crowley describes Mary as “humble, motivating, innovative, and a fierce advocate for her students.” Ms. Crowley writes, “She encourages her students to participate in activities that challenge them. She leads forensics and sponsors many writing contests. She teaches all day and attends religious lessons for her students in the evenings, as many are making their Confirmation. She is not only an Amazing Catholic Educator but a spiritual guide too.”
Kathryn “Kitty” Farkas is a Director of Student Services at Our Lady of the Lakes for all students, ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade. She has taught in the AOD for four years. Principal Jeanine Kenny describes her as a “faith-filled example to our students through her devotion to the Eucharist and the Blessed Maria” Ms. Kenny shares,“Kitty’s energy and commitment outside of school hours is endless. From Oktoberfest parties, weekly fish fries to sporting events, golf outings, Homecoming and Prom, Kitty does it all.” Kitty was also instrumental in helping pilot an inclusion program at the school. Kenny shares, “Kitty recognizes that all students learn differently and she has been key in changing the culture of our school to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.” She is an inspiration to other staff members and has kept them motivated and supported.
Anneke Houbeck is a teacher at St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Theology for grades 9 and 12. She has taught in AOD schools for six years. Principal Judith Hehs describes her as “a beautiful witness of faithfulness to the Church” and an “excellent role model because she lives her faith with integrity.” Ms. Hehs writes, “Upon entering [her] classroom, one’s whole demeanor is transformed, to feeling peace and calm. Her goal is to bring the students into a relationship with Jesus and she is loved by students even after they have graduated.” Anneke hosts the Novi Right to Life oratory competition each March, is the sponsor of an unofficial drawing club, and also travels with students to the March for Life in DC.
Bridget Schick is a teacher at Gesu Catholic School in Detroit and teaches kindergarten. She has taught in AOD schools for 25 years. Principal Mark Friday notes that she leads by example, with creativity and dedication. Mr. Friday shares, “Bridget is skilled in assessing students’ capabilities and with her calm and consistent manner, the students respond by meeting her expectations and producing their best work. She is constantly researching the best techniques to meet the needs of her young students. During covid-19, she has made sure that no student has been left behind.”
Gregory Reichert is the principal at Everest Collegiate High School & Academy, with 11 years of experience in this role after serving thirteen years in the classroom. President Mike Nalepa writes that he is service-oriented, humble, faith-filled and most importantly a man of prayer. In his nomination, it was noted that “Greg’s common sense, work ethic, Christ-like demeanor, and ability to collaborate with and support others while maintaining professional authority is astounding.” Aside from his duties as principal, Greg also helps chaperone the school’s annual trip to the March for Life and the senior pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Melissa Hunt is the principal at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth. She has three years of experience in this role at the Archdiocese of Detroit. Guidance Counselor Leigh Fitch shares that Melissa “exudes intelligence, kindness, and willingness to do whatever it takes for her community.” She lives and breathes the tenets of the Unleash the Gospel and has helped create an environment at OLGC where academics are based on best practices and the community is a family. The welcoming of new families at the school has continued during the pandemic in part thanks to “the charism of Melissa’s radical hospitality and love for sharing our Lord with others.”
Ann Diamond is the principal at Regina High School in Warren. She has 9 years of experience as a principal in the Archdiocese of Detroit. President Mary Treder Lang describes her as someone who “embraces her Catholic identity fully, believes in the dignity of all people and has taken initiative to bring ongoing diversity and inclusion training to our school.” Mary shares in her nomination, “Ann believes it is critical to stand in solidarity to promote the life and dignity of each person” and that she values listening and transparency. She has excellent communication skills and serves as a confident leader to Regina students. Thanks to her leadership and initiative, students at Regina are now also able to grow spiritually through the Kairos retreats. She “works tirelessly to promote a welcoming, lively and safe environment not just for students but also for faculty, staff and all families in the community.”
Joseph Zmikly is the principal at St. Joseph School in Lake Orion. Joseph has five years of experience as a principal in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Fr. James Francis Kean describes Joseph as having a “strong collaborative leadership style” and has been very active in implementing new, vibrant programming at the school such as introducing “Blackbaud, a new phonics program, a new reading instruction initiative, Dynamic Catholic curriculum for sacramental prep, along with a new academic support/intervention program for struggling students.” He is “well known in the community for the quality of his character” and is considered a leader by many other public school districts in the area.
Ashley Ackerman – Regina High School
Theresa Blevins – St. Hugo
Kristin Galui – Immaculate Conception
Angela Rochow – Our Lady of Good Counsel
Erika Zwolinksi – Shrine Catholic Grade School
Elizabeth Allard – St. Isaac Jogues
Nancy Masuda – St. Mary Catholic Central High School
Michelle Shawver – Shrine Catholic Grade School
Kerry Vlahantones = Our Lady Star of the Sea
Kelly Walter – St. Joseph
Eva Mutschler – Shrine Catholic High School & Academy
Julia Mazanka – Shrine Catholic High School and Academy
You can help us grow our Amazing Catholic Educators Award program next year.