By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
LEE’S SUMMIT —Catholic Schools Week occurs the last week of January each year and schools across the country celebrate Catholic education. This year’s theme was “Pay it Forward.”
In the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, teachers and students enjoyed basketball or volleyball games, out-of-uniform-and-in-pajamas or spirit days, pancakes for lunch, all-school Masses or service projects and other ways of honoring their school or their partner schools.
Our Lady of the Presentation School holds a celebratory assembly to close out Catholic Schools Week each year, with special guests,cheerleaders, games and awards. This year, Mac and Cheese, mascots of the Missouri Mavericks Hockey Team and K.C. Wolf of the Kansas City Chiefs joined Paws, the Presentation Panthers mascot, and the school’s cheerleaders in cheering for the students, the teachers and for the good things that had happened at the schools in the past year, including being named a Blue Ribbon School.
Father Tom Holder, pastor of Our Lady of the Presentation Parish, led the invocation encouraging the students and faculty to celebrate what “makes our school so wonderful: our faith, our students, our teachers and our families.”
Jodi Briggs, principal of the school, introduced several special guests, including members of Presentation’s Knights of Columbus Council, Lynn Hire, executive director of the FIRE Foundation, Steve Nicely, representing the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, and the 2014 SCL Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Becky Lynch.
Winning essays and posters about drug or alcohol abuse in contests sponsored by the Knights of Columbus were named, the first place students winning a certificate and $75 cash.
Mrs. Briggs praised the students for several projects during the school year that paid it forward: students made 1,000 scarves that were to be donated to Uplift, a Kansas City organization that aids the homeless and to Our Lady of Angels, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Holy Cross schools.
Our Lady of the Presentation had paid it forward to Our Lady of Angels by sending Chris Cakes to the school to treat students to pancakes for lunch.
The annual Coin War collected a total of $1,437.58 in spare change. The top three grades were the fifth grade, Kindergarten, and the third grade, which collected $339.29.
The third grade will share half of what they collected with their chosen charity, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence. The other half will be used in their classrooms.
The moment all had been waiting for arrived. A special parking place is reserved near the school entrance where the Teacher of the Year may park their car for their reigning year. Along with the parking spot, a $1,000 check from the Parent Teacher Organization is made out to the teacher.
Teachers are nominated by current 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, completely in the dark as to who will be selected as the Teacher of the Year.
Steve Nicely 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.” Jeff Wright, upper middle school teacher, was nominated for “making kids feel invested in their own education” and “highlighting the special gifts of each student.”
Third grade teacher Linda VanBecelaere was nominated for “fostering learning and discipline while focusing on values of leadership Third grade teacher Linda VanBecelaere was nominated for “fostering learning and discipline while focusing on values of leadership and learning to behave like Jesus.”
And then, the moment the entire assembly had been waiting for. Nicely quoted from some of the nominations for the selected teacher: “A teacher that impacts you for the rest of your life … classroom atmosphere changes as she adjusts to children’s needs…. Encourages us (students) to keep trying even when we think it’s impossible … kind and cool and teaches in stories, knows subjects very well… deserves the $1000 because she is worth a $ million to me.”
Becky Lynch, the 2014 Teacher of the Year, opened the envelope and announced, “Kathy Coleman.” Fourth graders burst into cheers as Paws escorted their tearful teacher to the stage.
Near the end of the assembly, two Missouri Mavericks hockey players came to the stage and with two students assisting, Captain Sebastian Thinel and left wing John-Scott Dickson gave a demonstration of dressing for a hockey game, without of course, their skates.
Beginning Monday, Feb. 2, Kathy Coleman will be able to use the reserved parking place close to the school entrance for the first time.