Four Catholic school educators from the Archdiocese of St. Louis were among more than 100 local educators honored during Emerson’s 30th annual Excellence in Teaching Awards ceremony Nov. 17. The award recognizes classroom instructors, selected by their schools’ administrators, for their accomplishments
and dedication to their students and the teaching profession.
“The role and importance of teachers in shaping young people’s lives cannot be overstated. Emerson’s Excellence in Teaching Awards provide an opportunity for our company to celebrate the accomplishments of some of the best teachers from across the St. Louis area,” 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. Excellence in Teaching Award recipients, who teach grades K through 12, have the opportunity to apply for a Gold Star Grant from Emerson to fund educational projects that reflect the key pillars of Emerson’s identity — technology, innovation and leadership.
Maureen Tavernaro | Middle school math teacher and STREAM electives
Holy Cross Academy — Annunciation Campus
Holy Cross Academy — Annunciation Campus Principal Janet Dolan said Maureen Tavernaro, a life-long learner with a contagious, enthusiastic personality, has singlehandedly raised the level of applied math and science at the middle school campus. “As a former engineer, Maureen’s love of applying creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills has carried over into her second career as a middle school math and STEM (STREAM) teacher,” Dolan said. “She has an excellent rapport with students and brings out the best in each of them.”
Tavernaro said she likes being a part of Catholic education because she can embrace and share her faith with her students and colleagues. “I enjoy weekly Mass with the students and our Faith Formation Days that help instill the virtues of good character in our students,” Tavernaro said.
She is blessed to be teaching alongside the staff at Holy Cross Academy, she said, in a unique model in Catholic education. “We have three elementary schools that feed into our middle school at the Annunciation campus which is where I teach. Having a separate middle (school) creates an environment where our students can gain more independence, advance their knowledge through the various electives that we offer and better prepare for the transition to high school.”
About Maureen Tavernaro:
• Is in her fourth year teaching at Holy Cross
• Attends numerous professional development opportunities in robotics, technology, coding and more. Through her dedication to the SLUH Clavius Project, her school has received more than $16,000 in instructional materials. This past summer she was one of two St. Louis teachers chosen to travel to Belize to teach robotics.
• Moderates math competitions, Chess Club, sixth-grade camp, and a competitive robotics team; she also offers numerous electives including fiber arts, equations, knitting and multiple STREAM topics.
Eileen Vehige | Kindergarten teacher
Holy Rosary School in Warrenton
Eileen Vehige is a “quintessential kindergarten teacher and colleague,” said her principal, Lori Racine. “She has a genuine love for every student and develops individual learning plans for each, truly propelling everyone to reach his or her highest potential.”
Racine praised Vehige for her professionalism, integrity, sincerity and creativity. “Not only does she create a classroom atmosphere that is joyful and optimal for learning, but her creativity spans to the lessons she creates and her teaching methods. Every student becomes excited to learn and fully participates in all the activities she provides. The environment in her room is one of cooperation, kindness and hard work,” Racine said.
Vehige said she enjoys Catholic education because God is in the middle of everything,” and because “you can pray at any moment.”
Her goal is to instill in her students a love for learning. “I want them to love to read, I want them to love to write, love math. A lot of it is building their self-confidence, realize they can do it, that they’re doing a great job. I take that job very seriously.”
Students come to kindergarten with different skills, some who are reading and some who aren’t. “Each child needs their own unique plan, meeting them on their level,” Vehige said.
Holy Rosary School is “almost like a little family,” she said, “and what binds us together is our faith. We pray every week together as a staff before school.”
About Eileen Vehige:
• Is in her fourth year as a teacher at Holy Rosary and is a member of the parish.
• Worked as a teacher for 18 years, mostly in the Rockwood School District and Wright City School District, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2015. Her four children attended Catholic schools.
• Known as a master of student-centered education, engagement, fun and productivity.
• Uses her knowledge of the curriculum and child development as a mentor for other teachers and in serving as care team coordinator.
Linda Wood | First-grade teacher
St. Francis of Assisi School in Oakville
St. Francis of Assisi principal Beth Bartolotta describes Linda Wood as a passionate, dedicated teacher-leader. “First-graders in Mrs. Wood’s classroom learn critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication through global challenges,” Bartolotta said. “Since these types of activities are embedded into essential foundational learnings of the primary years, Mrs. Wood’s students are given a strong foundation in key understandings, 21st-century skills, and the joy of learning.”
Wood said that each day as a Catholic educator, “my goal is to form passionately Catholic, academically excellent children. I help students grow in their faith by modeling my own faith. We are very blessed at SFA to be able to attend daily Mass with our students. I can think of no better way to start our day. I strive to ignite a love of learning in my children.”
St. Francis is a “very caring community, and it feels like an extension of my family,” Wood said. “The staff is amazing and very supportive of each other. Being a parishioner and teacher has given me the opportunity to watch my own children and many others grow in their faith throughout the years. I love seeing my students live their faith at Mass every Sunday.”
About Linda Wood:
• Is in her seventh year teaching at St. Francis this year.
• Uses flexible seating to differentiate for her learners’ physical needs, and uses multiple data tools to gauge student progress, to adjust instruction and to ensure adequate or exemplary growth.
• Directs project-based learning through Project Lead the Way and the school’s community garden.
• Helped lead the school transition to standards-based grading.
• Teaches critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication through global challenges using visits from “Globe Trot Scott,” a fictional character who brings cultural information and gifts from around the globe, and virtual reality field trips.
Tim Curdt | English teacher
Saint Louis University High School
SLUH Principal Father Ian Gibbons called Tim Curdt a distinguished educator and leader. He is “the teacher who best represents both the school’s tradition for excellence and the creativity and ambition of its vision for the unfolding future,” Father Gibbons said.
Curdt said that he is “profoundly humbled” by the recognition of his service to the students and SLUH community. “I have committed my professional and personal life to Catholic education, most specifically in the context of the Ignatian charism of a Jesuit school, and I have been surrounded by so many talented and dedicated colleagues and earnest students who have helped form me as a teacher and a person throughout my career,” Curdt said.
God has graced him each day, he said, “to find joy, meaning, wonder, and purpose in the life of a school that strives so tirelessly to embrace the urgency of learning not only for the sake of knowledge itself, but for the greater Glory of God in service to others.”
About Tim Curdt:
• Is in his 26th year as an English teacher and served 20 years as a wrestling coach at SLUH.
• Directed and served as lead architect of the new SLUH Learning Center. Helped design new policies and protocols for student support for students with diagnosed learning issues; helped write new curriculum and design programming and interventions for student support.
• Served as summer school principal. Coordinated a team of colleagues to help redesign SLUH’s Middle School Upward Bound 7 and Upward Bound 8 Programs.
• Led SLUH’s workshop for middle school teachers and administrators in the St. Louis area.
• Served as freshman moderator for 20 years and led the Senior Advisor Program at SLUH.
• Led the redesign and implementation of the freshman retreat and freshman Direction Days.
• Became a certified ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) professional through the Institute of Certified ADHD Professionals.