Bishop Foley’s Petty, St. Mary’s Decoster recognized among top Catholic teachers

Bishop John M. Quinn, retired bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minn., and a former Detroit auxiliary bishop, presents the 2024 Bishop John M. Quinn Secondary and Elementary School Teachers of the Year awards to Madison Heights Bishop Foley High School English teacher Marylee Petty, left, and Royal Oak St. Mary School English teacher Beth Decoster, right, during award presentations earlier this month at each school. (Photos by Kaitlyn Grace Chornoby and Naomi Vrazo)

Madison Heights, Royal Oak teachers honored as 2024 Bishop John M. Quinn Teachers of the Year with namesake present

DETROIT — For years, the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Catholic High School League have annually honored two Catholic school educators with the Bishop John M. Quinn Teachers of the Year awards.

It’s not every year, however, that those awards have been presented by the man in whose honor the recognitions are named.

Bishop Quinn, 78, a former Detroit auxiliary bishop and the retired bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minn., served as director of the archdiocese’s education department from 1990 to 2003 and for more than two decades on the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Earlier this month, Bishop Quinn — who returned to Detroit after retiring in 2022 — presented the 2024 Teachers of the Year awards in person to Beth Decoster, an English and literature teacher of St. Mary School in Royal Oak, and Marylee Petty, an English teacher at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights.

The award winners were chosen from among the dozens of recipients of this year’s Excellence in Teaching award winners, who were chosen from among each school’s faculty.

Bishop John M. Quinn presents this year's Bishop John M. Quinn Elementary School Teacher of the Year Award to Beth Decoster, a longtime English teacher at St. Mary School in Royal Oak. (Naomi Vrazo | Special to Detroit Catholic)
Bishop John M. Quinn presents this year's Bishop John M. Quinn Elementary School Teacher of the Year Award to Beth Decoster, a longtime English teacher at St. Mary School in Royal Oak. (Naomi Vrazo | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Bishop John M. Quinn Elementary School Teacher of the Year: Beth Decoster (St. Mary, Royal Oak)

A longtime English and literature teacher at St. Mary School in Royal Oak, Decoster “constantly goes above and beyond to help her students, coworkers, and the St. Mary community,” said Catholic League director Vic Michaels, who with Bishop Quinn and CHSL associate director Mike Evoy was on hand to present the award at the Royal Oak school.

Decoster’s commitment to Catholic education doesn’t end in the classroom, Michaels said, as she’s also a parent to two Catholic school students who “have certainly learned from her example.”

In her classes, Decoster “inspires a love of reading and writing in her students every single year,” Michaels said. “She builds meaningful relationships with her middle school students. Her priority is meeting the needs of her students to the best of her ability and preparing them for high school and heaven.”

Decoster frequently weaves the Catholic faith into her lessons, Michaels added, and frequently volunteers to help others in the school community.

According to St. Mary principal Gabby Bala, Decoster supervises “early arrivers” at the school each morning, and “is a warm and nurturing presence for the younger students that are in her care.”

“Mrs. Decoster is an active and visible model of our Catholic faith, regularly attending Mass and showing what it is to truly know, love and serve God,” Michaels concluded. “St. Mary is very blessed to have her on staff.”

Bishop John M. Quinn presents the 2024 Bishop John M. Quinn Secondary School Teacher of the Year Award to English teacher Marylee Petty at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights. (Kaitlyn Grace Chornoby | Special to Detroit Catholic)
Bishop John M. Quinn presents the 2024 Bishop John M. Quinn Secondary School Teacher of the Year Award to English teacher Marylee Petty at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights. (Kaitlyn Grace Chornoby | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Bishop John M. Quinn Secondary School Teacher of the Year: Marylee Petty (Bishop Foley High School, Madison Heights)

A teacher in the Archdiocese of Detroit for more than 30 years, Petty’s “high standards, joyful attitude, and consistent show of faith to students and staff alike” made her the ideal recipient for this year’s honor, Michaels said.

An English teacher at Bishop Foley for several years, Petty was nominated for this year’s award by the staff at the Madison Heights school, who “highlighted the ways in which they have seen, firsthand, the impact that Marylee Petty has on her students,” Michaels said.

Besides an infectious joy that radiates to each of her students, Petty “has awoken the passion of students to continue their writing and rhetoric beyond the Bishop Foley doors, with multiple students returning to say how she influenced their decision to study English in college,” or even to return to Bishop Foley as teachers themselves, Michaels said.

Petty is a “rock in the English department” who frequently mentors new teachers, and she has sent three of her own children to Bishop Foley, he added.

During the pandemic, when remote learning threatened students’ development at a critical time in their education, Petty “led the English department to target and improve the skills that needed to be built up, and Bishop Foley’s scores are proof of the results of her work,” Michaels said.

“It’s no surprise that, by the time Foley students are seniors, most of them consult Marylee about their college essays,” Michaels added. “She represents the best and brightest of Foley’s teaching staff.”



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