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St. Frances Cabrini Academy first-grade teacher Kathy Torrington, a recipient of an Emerson Awards for Excellence in Teaching, asked Osvaldo Aceves what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving. Aceves’ response: “puppies!” See a story on the five award winners from Catholic schools the archdiocese on Pages 2 and 3.
St. Frances Cabrini Academy first-grade teacher Kathy Torrington, a recipient of an Emerson Awards for Excellence in Teaching, asked Osvaldo Aceves what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving. Aceves’ response: “puppies!” See a story on the five award winners from Catholic schools the archdiocese on Pages 2 and 3.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Five Catholic educators recognized for dedication

Teachers at Ste. Genevieve du Bois, St. Mary’s, Borgia, Cabrini, Chaminade receive Emerson Award

Five Catholic teachers from the archdiocese are among 100 local educators named as the 2020 honorees of Emerson’s Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Rebecca Floretta

A second-grade teacher who has taught at Ste. Genevieve du Bois School in Warson Woods for seven years, Floretta believes teaching is a calling. She knew from a young age that she would be a Catholic educator because she wanted to be in a faith-based environment.

“I attended Catholic schools from grade one through college and received so much from those schools and teachers: faith, stewardship, academics, et cetera,” she said. “I wanted to be able to do the same for others. This is also one of the reasons my husband and I sent our four children to Catholic grade school and high schools.”

Floretta prepares her students for First Reconciliation and First Communion. The school’s principal, Anthony Van Gessel, said that Floretta “provides students with an education rooted in faith and serves as an enthusiastic faith model. There is no one that I would rather have in this position.”

She reaches even the most challenged learners, Van Gessel said. “While pushing her students to achieve academically, Mrs. Floretta still manages to create a warm, nurturing environment where students feel included, safe, and loved.”

Rebecca Floretta, a recipient of an Emerson Award for Excellence in Teaching, taught language arts to her second-grade class at Ste. Genevieve du Bois school in Warson Woods Nov. 19.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

Julie Guelker

Guelker is a “master teacher” according to Valerie Todd, the principal at St. Mary’s High School.

The lead teacher in St. Mary’s STAR program, she serves students who perform below grade level and struggle with significant learning differences. She’s created a learning environment where the students feel a part of both her small classroom as well as the St. Mary’s community. Her students gain the confidence to interact with other students and try new things such as clubs or athletics.

In her seventh year at the school, she “empowers them and has a positive influence on how they think, act and feel about themselves. She adapts her teaching style for each student to empower them to be life-long learners,” Todd said.

Guelker realized that she had a way of connecting with children at an early age. She chose jobs such as a camp counselor. “By the time that I became a teacher, I had already had many years of experience in helping children to grow and learn. I still get excited to this day to find or create just the right lesson or activity that will possibly engage my students and enhance their learning in some small way. I love that I can pray with my students and share my faith with them. I think this helps to create a caring and compassionate learning environment. This type of environment builds a sense of belonging and brotherhood in my classes. My passion and my faith drive me daily to do my best for my students.”

Emily Marquart

A fifth-grade teacher at St. Francis Borgia School in Washington, Marquart is known for constantly thinking of others and modeling Catholicism.

Principal Linda Pahl emphasized that Marquart teaches with her heart. “She understands the importance of teaching the learning standards while emphasizing social development, Catholic values, and fun,” Pahl wrote.

She incorporates virtues into daily learning naturally, as she leads by example, Pahl said. “Emily genuinely loves her students with her whole heart. She invests the necessary time to establish strong relationships with parents, recognizing them as their child’s first teachers.”

Marquart said she loves spending time with children and striving to make a difference in their lives. “I want to inspire them to become the best that they can be, and accomplish anything they want to accomplish.”

Teaching in a Catholic school, she said, “has helped me deepen my faith, and to be able to share that with my students is something very special.”

Kathy Torrington

A first-grade teacher at St. Frances Cabrini Academy for 12 years, Torrington shares her joy, enthusiasm and a love of learning.

Principal Caroline Koetting reported that Torrington created a curriculum that builds a strong foundation for students to become lifelong learners. “She combines books with online resources and hands-on activities to allow students to experience her lessons in a meaningful way. Her kind encouragement and positivity motivate her students to work beyond the lessons by doing additional practice work and researching to further explore topics presented in class.”

Torrington said she seeks to make connections with her students, their families and her colleagues. “I am passionate about giving students, regardless of their socioeconomic situation, the opportunity to thrive and to excel. I am passionate about sharing my love for learning and my curiosity about our world with my students, and passionate about the goodness they will share with others as a result of the education they receive at Cabrini.

She counts her decision to teach for the archdiocese among the best decisions of her life.

Jessica Young

Young is a Project Lead The Way engineering teacher for eighth- through 12th-graders at Chaminade College Preparatory School where her classroom overflows with spirit, challenge and support.

Brett Desnoyer, associate principal for instruction and mission, said Young encourages her students to tinker, to experiment, even to make mistakes. She creates a true learning environment, where students learn from trial and error, from feedback, from having fun. “Mrs. Young is among the most innovative teachers I have ever seen,” Desnoyer said. “She is a brilliant teacher, a true reflective practitioner, a tireless inventor of lessons and learning challenges. Mrs. Young gives her students what great teachers give — a classroom filled with joy, with support, and with kindness and affirmation.”

Young said, “I love teaching because every day is a new day, full of new adventures. Being a positive part of my students’ lives is something that I strive for. I want my students to grow up being unequivocally themselves, have confidence to try new things, to enjoy each victory, and to learn from our failures.”

At Chaminade, Young said, “everyone has each other’s backs, everyone tries to help in any way they can. I walk through those doors and it always feel like home. It is a place of love, honesty, trust, and gives me the freedom to be who I was born to be.”

Excellence in Teaching Awards

Julie Guelker , a recipient of an Emerson Award for Excellence in Teaching, worked with with Kele Jones on literacy in class at St. Mary’s High School Nov. 19.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Emerson has named 100 local educators as the 2020 honorees of the company’s Excellence in Teaching Awards. The annual program recognizes St. Louis area instructors, selected by their schools’ administrators, for their accomplishments and dedication to their students and the teaching profession.

“More than ever, in this environment affected by COVID-19, Emerson is proud to champion the critical role of teachers in guiding and shaping the lives of young people in our community,” said David J. Rabe, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Emerson.

The Excellence in Teaching Awards program began in St. Louis in 1989 and is sponsored annually by Emerson, the St. Louis-headquartered global technology and engineering company. The award recipients who teach grades kindergarten through high school also have the opportunity to apply for a Gold Star Grant from Emerson. These competitive grants fund educational projects that reflect the key pillars of Emerson’s identity — technology, innovation and leadership. Since 2006, Emerson has awarded $689,000 to area teachers and schools through its Gold Star Grant program.

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