By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
LEE’S SUMMIT — The last week of January each year is the time when, across the country, Catholic school faculty, staff and students, along with their parents, come together to celebrate what Catholic education is all about. It’s a packed week: students and perhaps teachers wear crazy, mixed up outfits or even pajamas to school instead of uniforms, gather for service projects, special Masses and assemblies. The theme this year was Catholic Schools — Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.
Our Lady of the Presentation School in Lee’s Summit held a special assembly Jan. 31 to acknowledge the school community and celebrate its faith, knowledge and service to others. Father Tom Holder, pastor of Presentation Parish, led the students, faculty and parents in a prayer asking God’s help to grow each day in the ways of faith.
The Grand Knight of the parish Knights of Columbus Council and two Council members announced the winners of the Knights of Columbus essay contest. Archbishop O’Hara High School cheerleaders, pep band and Shamrockettes performed cheers and dance routines, and fired up the students’ enthusiasm even more.
After a game of “Simon Says,” with help from K.C. Wolf, the Kansas City Chief’s mascot, a service project was applauded. Students collected 360 snack items to fill backpacks for children in need attending one of the Strong City Schools to take home over a weekend. Jeremy Lillig, Managing Director of the diocesan Bright Futures Fund and Strong City Schools Fund, thanked the students for their generosity. He then assisted school Principal Jodi Briggs in a game of “Heads or Tails.”
Accompanied by cheers from the O’Hara squad, Mrs. Briggs announced that the students had collected $634.64 voting for the teacher who best represented the 1980s during Catholic Schools Week. The money raised was split 50/50, half to the third grade class and half to the Bright Futures Fund.
The S.A.V.E. Foundation (Safety, Abuse and Violence Education), each year awards grants to teachers for special class projects. Five teachers were awarded grants to purchase needed equipment or special articles for their class.
There is a special parking place near the school entrance reserved for the Teacher of the Year. He or she may park their car in that spot for the year. There is also a $1,000 check from the Parent Teacher Organization made out to the teacher. Teachers are nominated by students and former students; the nominations are then submitted, unidentified, to a panel of Catholic professionals outside the parish, which reviews and deliberates until they reach a consensus upon the recipient. The process keeps the teachers, and the students, totally in the dark as to who the Teacher of the Year will be.
Third Grade teacher Maureen Van Becelaere, the 2013 Teacher of the Year, received a blessing tree made up of 26 hearts, commemorating each year she has taught, first at Christ the King School and, since 1999, at Presentation. Each heart contains a quote from one student from each year of her teaching career, the student’s name and year in her class, and the logo of the Catholic schools where she attended or taught. The students also had a special gift for her — a framed heart containing the sentiments from her nominations last year.
A member of the independent selection panel for the past three years, Father Robert Stewart, pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, also in Lee’s Summit, announced the 2014 Teacher of the Year Award.
This year, Father Stewart said, the Sisters of Charity Selection Panel chose two teachers to be recognized with an Honorable Mention, deserving “respect and recognition and, they are eligible to win next year.” Art teacher Julie Sherfinski and Fifth Grade teacher Denise Russell were so recognized.
And then, the moment the entire assembly had been waiting for.
Father Stewart shared some of the winning nominations: “…has impacted the lives of countless students … she maximizes the success of each child by working with their particular learning style and needs. … She has really neat ways of teaching … and gives lots of hugs! … She truly teaches the entire child and has a way of making each one feel as though she came to work just to see them …”
Outgoing Teacher of the Year Maureen Van Becelaere opened the envelope and, following a drum roll, announced the 2014 Teacher of the Year, “Mrs. Becky Lynch!” Lynch is a second grade teacher. Escorted to the stage by Presentation’s Panther mascot, “Paws,” the surprised teacher found her family waiting for her with hugs and congratulations. She was presented with the check and “the reserved parking space.”
Closing the assembly with a prayer and the school song, the students and teachers returned to their classrooms to collect coats and books and then to join their parents or carpools and go home.
Monday, Feb. 3, Becky Lynch would be able to use the reserved parking place close to the school entrance for the first time.