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. Since 2019,  we have honored twenty-five educators for their 349 combined years of faithful, inspired service to Catholic Education.

Thanks to a generous Catholic school supporter in 2023, every $1 given to the Amazing Catholic Educator fund will be matched up to $10,000!

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2021-2022 Amazing Catholic Educators


Hannah DeRocher is a high school teacher at Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe teaching Humanities, Literature, Latin, History, and Drama for grades 9 through 12. School Founder, Alejandra Maria Correa shares “Hannah’s love of our Lord shines forth in the classroom as she strives to bring forth this love to her students- her love of learning and dedication to the Catholic faith is an inspiration to both students and teachers alike.” Her creativity, good humor, patience, faith, and integrity, all add up to give her a truly magnetic personality, which makes her not only a personal role model on how to live the faith courageously and accept Jesus but also make her classes the highlight of her student’s school day.

Leigh Fitch is the school counselor at Our Lady of Good Counsel for all students ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Leigh is actively involved in her role at OLGC and takes part in many committees and teams, including the School Leadership Team, Strategic Planning Team, School Improvement Team, Reading Action Team, and Staff Lighthouse Team. Her passion for helping children become good people and finding their own success helps OLGC students have life-changing encounters with Jesus. Melissa Hunt, OLGC school principal writes, “Not only does Mrs. Fitch know the name of every child, but can tell you a story about every child.  She is the encourager, prayer warrior, and counselor of all students, staff, and parents and is respected by our school community because of her character, dedication, and faith.”

Meagan Keane is a grade school teacher at Holy Redeemer Grade School in Detroit. She has taught second grade at Holy Redeemer for 43 years and has shared her Catholic values and principles with over 1200 students. From teaching students their first prayers to preparing them for the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, Meagan has introduced her Catholic students to Jesus, guiding them to trust in Him throughout their lives. Holy Redeemer principal, Sr Kateri Burbee, shares, “Meagan Keane has devoted her entire teaching career to serving children in Detroit.  She has taught by example, with love and consistency, paving a path for her students to achieve their personal best while developing a loving relationship with God.”

Kimberly Kerwin is a Theology teacher at St. Fabian Catholic School in Farmington Hills. She has taught in AOD schools for seventeen years and currently teaches students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Along with her role as the Theology teacher, Kimberly also stepped in as the Director of Religious Education at the parish. Assistant principal Courtney Nixon shares, “Kimberly Kerwin selflessly shares the gifts that God has given her to share Christ’s love to all that she encounters. She develops life-long relationships with families and doesn’t just preach God’s love but lives it in all that she does with passion. Her creative approaches instill a deep love and curiosity for the Catholic faith and as noted by one parent “her creative and no-nonsense yet encouraging approach has taught my kids much more than any curriculum ever could.”

Chelsea Mulrenin is a teacher at St. Germaine Catholic School of Saint Clair Shores, teaching Math and Social Studies to students in grades four through eight. Ms. Mulrenin can be found at the school on most weeks at least 6 days a week if not 7. Due to a teacher shortage, Ms. Mulrenin volunteered to take on not only her position as the 5th-grade homeroom teacher and the 4th and 5th-grade math and social studies teacher but all math for the middle school and teaches over half the school on a given day. Ms. Mulrenin is not only a dedicated educator, but she is also an assistant Athletic Director, Dream Weavers Coordinator, Student Council teacher Rep, Starbase teacher, Talent Show director, Basketball and Volleyball coach. Principal Colleen Maciejewski shares, “Chelsea Mulrenin is everything a Catholic educator should strive to be. She is compassionate, understanding, and lives the life of a disciple of Christ. Her living example helps students see Christ’s words in action and helps them want to be more.”

Cindy Pryor is an eighth grade teacher at St. Thecla Catholic School in Clinton Township. She has taught at St. Thecla for 41 years, teaching various subjects such as Religion, Literature, and English. Cindy is a shining example of being a Catholic role model and is a leader among staff and students to lead, teach, serve, and be bold in faith. She incorporates tried and true strategies and pedagogical approaches in her teaching as well as new and innovative ways to reach all learners, with varying abilities. Her reputation as an excellent teacher and exceptional, faithful servant is what previous students want for their own children and many have returned to St. Thecla. Along with her educator duties, she organizes and facilitates service opportunities such as food drives for the St. Thecla Food Pantry, toy drives at Christmas, organizes fundraising for the St. Thecla Scholarship Fund, plans special Masses such as May Crowning, Veterans’ Day Mass, etc and prays and sings with the church choir. She also runs the school forensics teams, is lead for the Eastside league, and is the director and writer for our school play each year which draws a large crowd from the St. Thecla community. Principal Dr. Dona Johnson Beach shares, “Cindy Pryor is strong in her faith and an example of Unleashing the Gospel at St. Thecla. She is committed to academic excellence. Service is her middle name with her various works of mercy.”

Gabriela Bala is the principal at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Royal Oak, Michigan. Gabriela Bala is the principal at St. Mary Catholic School of Royal Oak, with 12 years of experience in this role. Along with her principal duties at St. Mary Catholic Schools, Gabriela is also a member of the Academic Excellence Committee, MANS Conference Committee, AOD Accreditation Chairperson, National Catholic Education Association, Partners in Mission Advancement Training.  One parent shared, “Gaby’s ability to make everyone feel safe and welcome is unparalleled. Her nurturing personality and true commitment to the school create a culture of warmth and happiness while upholding the high expectations for a school run with Catholic principles.Her dedication to her faith is always on active display, whether through her daily role as principal or her participation in liturgies at St. Mary. She uses prayer as a means to provide calm and stability to students, staff, and parents, especially during this uncertain time of schooling” 

Jeremy Clark is the principal at St. Patrick Catholic School in White Lake, Michigan.  Jeremy has been with St. Patrick for approximately 9 years and in partnership with the Parents Club and School Advisory Committee, and Parish, Jeremy has been instrumental in providing an exceptional educational experience for the St. Patrick School. Jeremy began a program at St. Patrick, “Choose Kind”, where students were encouraged to not only show acts of kindness but to report acts of kindness that the student encounters. Pastor Fr. Tom Meagher shares, “Jeremy Clark is the embodiment of our Catholic Faith. He leads by example and is dedicated to promoting faith first, excellence in education, and a commitment to our community.” School advisory committee co-chairs, Kelly Fontes & Priscilla Stephan, added, “When you observe principal shoveling snow off the cars of his staff, putting together new student desks, painting over 20 classrooms, and taking 2 weeks to teach Middle School ELA until the right candidate is found is something that most individuals in his position simply would not do. He did this quietly and with a smile on his face. The larger work and efforts certainly demand praise, but it is the smaller undertakings that we truly recognize and see the Holy Spirit working through this man.”

Ann Crowley is the principal at St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Ann is dedicated to equity for all and exemplifies “educating and empowering children of all faiths.” Recognizing the diversity of St. Clare’s school population, Ann initiated the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee to create an avenue for students, parents, and teachers to share ideas that helped shape and share a safe and beautiful environment in the parish school community. Fr. Andrew Kowalczyk writes, “She embodies the Catholic values of serving those in need and fighting for justice. She has dedicated her life to educating and supporting students worldwide. She exemplifies Catholic values by demonstrating for students how to love others and treat everyone with respect. She is the “poster principal” for Unleashing the Gospel.”

Jill Geden is the principal at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Beverly Hills, Michigan. Jill has created a safe and faith-filled environment where students are encouraged to offer prayer intentions and lead through empowerment and by example. Daniella Brown, a member of the OLQM school advisory board shares, “Being a principal is Jill’s occupation, but her role is more than just making a living; she exhibits God’s way in her everyday actions as she leads our community. She is one of the most caring, hard-working, loving, and kind individuals you will ever come across, and we are proud that she is our fearless leader at OLQM. She stepped in during a moment of insecurity in our school and brought faith, character, and a passion for learning back to our children, parents, and staff. She has done a marvelous job with our staff and students despite many challenges and continues to lead.”

Honorable Mentions:

Katie Brandt –  St. Catherine of Siena Academy
Don Ciaravino – Brother Rice High School

Amy Dulgerian – Regina High School
Brian Flint – St. Mary Catholic Central High School
Daniel Geoghegan – Loyola High School
Lisa Hughes – Cabrini High School
Peter Klozik – Shrine Catholic High School and Academy
Beth McMahon – Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic School
Kathy Pawlowski – St. Clare of Montefalco
Carol Stowe – Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish School

Leah VanKlompenberg – Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic School


2020 – 2021 Amazing Catholic Educators

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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.

Honorable Mentions:

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

2019 – 2020 Amazing Catholic Educators

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The Amazing Catholic Educator Award recognizes teachers and specialists within the Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD) Catholic schools who are creating a school culture that is proudly Catholic, academically excellent, accessible to all, and sustainable for the future. Each of the five educators exemplifies unleashing the Gospel in their school.We are pleased to introduce you to the 2019 Amazing Catholic Educator award winners. Please help us celebrate these amazing educators for their (99 combined!) years of faithful, inspired service to AOD schools:

Karen Fabian is a teacher at Shrine Catholic Grade School for 3rd grade English/Language Arts, math and science. She has been a teacher in the AOD for 20 years. Principal Jennifer Bero describes her as “enthusiastic, energetic and caring.” Ms. Bero shared in her nomination, “Karen integrates her Catholic faith into everything she teaches. Karen expects the best from all of her students while also meeting each child where he/she is at. She differentiates her lessons and makes the students eager to learn more. We have some families who struggle with helping their children at home and Karen helps to bridge this gap, making Shrine their home.”

Kathryn Gross is a teacher at Loyola High School Detroit in 9th grade culinary arts and 10th grade biology. She has taught in AOD schools for 25 years. Principal Wyatt Jones, III describes her as “dedicated, nurturing and reliable.” Mr. Jones shared in his nomination, “Kathy brings the same energy, passion and Christian love to this, her 22nd year at Loyola as she did in her first year of serving our mission in 1998. Working with underserved and marginalized students has been her calling. Recognizing the vast talent of the student body, Kathy formed a debate team eight years ago and has coached the team to six State Championships and four League Championships.”

Timothy Magg is a teacher at St. Mary Catholic Central High School (SMCC) in 12th grade theology and serves as campus minister. He has taught at SMCC for 22 years. Principal Jason Linster describes Tim as “compassionate, faithful and engaging.” Mr. Linster wrote in his nomination, “Tim is a faithful Catholic who spreads our faith among the students, staff and parents. He has taught on every grade level and has implemented a Christian service program, managed and grown three student service trips to Kentucky and Guatemala, instructs seniors on how to be faith leaders, and has counseled students through personal problems, crises of faith, and walked with students through the process of joining our Church. He runs a retreat program that is mentioned by graduates as among the most important moments of their four years of high school.”

MaryBeth Nicholas is a teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) for 4-6th grade science and has taught in the AOD for 25 years, 20 of those at OLGC. Principal Melissa Hunt describes her as “faith-filled, giving and joyful.” Ms. Hunt shared in her nomination, “MaryBeth strives to make learning enjoyable and attainable for all students by relating topics to real life, blending them with faith and incorporating hands-on activities. Using her charisms for intercessory prayer and mercy, she has shown her giving heart by sleeping outside to raise money for the homeless. She is an inspiration to other staff members through her hard work and willingness to lend a helping hand.”


Zoe-Ann Waters is a teacher at St. Isaac Jogues in English/Language Arts for grades 6-8.  She has taught in AOD schools for 7 years. Principal Sr. Catherine Marie Compton describes her as “passionate, dedicated and compassionate.” Sr. Compton wrote in her nomination, “Zoe-Ann supports new staff and helped develop our mentor program for new teachers; she builds school identity within and outside her classroom (she is leading our accreditation); and she is always looking for new ways to integrate her Catholic faith in her lessons and novels. She meets every child where they are at to help each one grow and succeed. She imparts to her students both a strong confidence in expressing themselves, and a deep wonder of the world around them.”



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