Catholic Foundation honors 10 ‘amazing Catholic educators’ with inaugural awards

In honor of foundation’s patroness, St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Schools Celebration honors educators who ‘literally change lives every day’

DETROIT –– On the feast day of its patroness, St. Katherine Drexel, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan honored 10 Archdiocese of Detroit principals and teachers with its inaugural Amazing Catholic Educator Award. 

The 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,” according to the Catholic Foundation’s website.  

After being nominated via written recommendations from colleagues, students and parents, each submission was reviewed by the Catholic Foundation’s Grant and Impact Committee. The winners all will receive $1,000. 

According to Catholic Foundation president and CEO Angela Moloney, St. Katherine Drexel’s work to expand Catholic education opportunities, especially among minority communities, makes her a perfect patroness for the organization, especially as it honors Catholic educators. 

“Amazing Catholic Educator” Bridget Schick, kindergarten teacher at Gesu Catholic School, Detroit. (Photos courtesy of Catholic Foundation of Michigan)
“Amazing Catholic Educator” Joseph Zmikly, principal at St. Joseph School in Lake Orion.

“St. Katherine Drexel is the patron saint of the Catholic Foundation, and she is phenomenal in so many ways,” Moloney told Detroit Catholic. “Her mission and ministry was really to support educational endeavors for Black and indigenous communities. She really focused on Catholic education and lifting people up through education.” 

The first annual St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Schools Celebration was held virtually via Zoom, but the Catholic Foundation and those who nominated the educators still managed to surprise the winners. Teachers and principals were presented with their awards by their colleagues, often with their students in the background cheering them on. 

During the ceremony, Anthony Schena, a member of the Catholic Foundations board of directors, said the winners spanned from the city to the suburbs, from kindergarten to high school, and had a combined 109 years of service to Catholic education.

“Amazing Catholic Educator” Gregory Reichert, principal of Everest Collegiate High School and Academy in Clarkston.
“Amazing Catholic Educator” Melissa Hunt, principal of Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Plymouth.

“You are building the foundation for the next generation of faithful Catholics, and we are so very blessed to have you in our schools,” Schena said.

Although the event was the Catholic Foundation’s first celebration of this kind, Moloney said the foundation hopes to continue the tradition. 

“We plan to celebrate Catholic education every year,” Moloney said. “Last year was a really unique one for everyone. Our world was rocked by the uncertainty of all we faced. So generous individuals and families reached out to the Catholic Foundation to see how they could show their support for Catholic schools, students, families and staff.”

This outburst of generosity led to the establishment of two unique 2020 scholarships: the St. Martin De Porres Scholarship and the St. Anne Scholars Fund. The new funds benefited 63 worthy families at 23 different archdiocesan schools, allowing them to afford a Catholic education for their children.

“Amazing Catholic Educator” Ann Diamond, principal of Regina High School in Warren.
“Amazing Catholic Educator” Kathryn “Kitty” Farkas, director of student services at Our Lady of the Lakes, Waterford.
“Amazing Catholic Educator” Mary Elizabeth White, teacher at St. Clare of Montefalco in Grosse Pointe Park.

As the ceremony came to a close, Kathleen McCann, chairwoman of the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Council and a Catholic Foundation board member, shared her congratulations to the winners and shared how, although she didn’t benefit directly from a Catholic education, she still experienced their indirect impact through her own parents, who both went to Catholic schools in Metro Detroit. 

“Most years we were either on the waiting list for Catholic school, or the ‘couldn’t afford it’ list,” McCann said. “Nonetheless, there is no doubt that we all were indirect recipients of the gift of our parents’ Catholic education. It is a gift that keeps on giving.”

McCann acknowledged that the reason anyone is able to enjoy the gift of Catholic education is through the generosity of others, whether through scholarships and grants, parents who make sacrifices, or educators who dedicate themselves to a life of Catholic teaching with little pay. 

“Amazing Catholic Educator” Deborah Sylvester, teacher at St. Stephen School in New Boston.
“Amazing Catholic Educator” Bethany Beyer, teacher at Brother Rice High School in the Achieve Plus Learning Center.
“Amazing Catholic Educator” Anneke Houbeck, a theology teacher at St. Catherine of Siena Academy in Wixom.

“We are all aware today of the mounting challenges in our culture and in our children’s schools,” McCann said. “Truth is elusive in many circles, and belief in (God) is thought only to belong to the ignorant or naïve. We know better, of course, and it takes love, courage and boldness to speak to truth to a hostile culture and to guide our little ones to truth and a God who loves them. You literally change lives every single day through your vocation, and you save souls through your work.” 

2021 Amazing Catholic Educator Award recipients:

  • Bethany Beyer –– Teacher at Brother Rice High School, Bloomfield Hills
  • Gregory Reichert –– Principal at Everest Collegiate High School and Academy, Clarkston
  • Deborah Sylvester –– Teacher at St. Stephen School, New Boston
  • Melissa Hunt –– Principal at Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Plymouth
  • Mary Elizabeth White –– Teacher at St. Clare of Montefalco School, Grosse Pointe Park
  • Ann Diamond –– Principal at Regina High School, Warren
  • Kathryn Farkas –– Director of Student Services at Our Lady of the Lakes School, Waterford Township 
  • Joseph Zmikly –– Principal at St. Joseph School, Lake Orion
  • Anneke Houbeck –– Teacher at St. Catherine of Siena Academy, Wixom
  • Bridget Schick –– Teacher at Gesu Catholic School, Detroit

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ashley Ackerman –– Regina High School, Warren
  • Theresa Blevins –– St. Hugo of the Hills, Bloomfield Hills
  • Kristin Galui –– Immaculate Conception School, Ira Township
  • Angela Rochow –– Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Plymouth
  • Erika Zwolinksi –– Shrine Catholic Grade School, Royal Oak
  • Elizabeth Allard –– St. Isaac Jogues School, St. Clair Shores
  • Nancy Masuda –– St. Mary Catholic Central High School, Monroe
  • Michelle Shawver –– Shrine Catholic Grade School, Royal Oak
  • Kerry Vlahantones –– Our Lady Star of the Sea School, Grosse Pointe Woods
  • Kelly Walter –– St. Joseph School, Lake Orion
  • Eva Mutschler –– Shrine Catholic High School and Academy, Royal Oak
  • Julia Mazanka –– Shrine Catholic High School and Academy, Royal Oak