Lori Aholt keeps a small notebook at her desk in which she writes the names of her former students and what year they graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes School in Washington.
With nearly four decades of experience at the school, Aholt has already filled one notebook and is on her second. She keeps track so she can send a note to her former students when they graduate from high school, encouraging them in their future endeavors.
Aholt has taught students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades at Our Lady of Lourdes. She’s taught kindergarten for the past 18 years, preparing the school’s youngest students with a foundation for lifelong learning and helping them to grow in their faith.
Her greatest joy as a teacher is “when I see a child who was one of my kids — even when they’re older, they’re still one of my kids — and I see them in the hall, or at an event, and I see them successful,” she said. “I see them on their own, supporting their families … I had a little part in that, but it makes me feel good.”
Aholt is one of six teachers from Catholic schools in the St. Louis area who are among 99 educators honored with an Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award this year. The annual award recognizes classroom instructors, selected by their schools’ administrators, for their accomplishments and dedication to their students and the teaching profession.
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.
“Dedicated and passionate teachers have a profound, long-lasting impact on their students,” said Akberet Boykin Farr, vice president of human resources for Emerson. “Their unwavering commitment to ignite students’ passion for learning and empower them to overcome challenges in and out of the classroom is commendable.”
Aholt is a 1972 graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes School. After earning dual degrees in elementary education and special education, she served as a public school teacher for a few years. She stayed home after her first child was born, but soon wanted to return to the classroom. She looked around her hometown, and Our Lady of Lourdes was the first to offer her a job.
“It was like I was coming back home,” Aholt said.
In her nomination of Aholt, principal Ann Joyce said that she is often the first teacher in the building each morning to ensure that her materials and technology are in order for the day’s plans. “I like a plan, but I know that the plan changes,” Aholt said, adding that flexibility is key to ensuring the school day goes smoothly.
Reading, writing and math are among the first subjects her students learn. “Reading is primary,” she said. “It is huge and will impact them for the rest of their lives. I see them making out words and then when they begin to read sentences, it’s fun. The kids are excited and they want to show off.”
Jamie Albright | 4th and 5th grade math teacher
St. Genevieve du Bois School
Jamie Albright is described as someone who sets high standards for learning, yet has a kind and nurturing approach with her students. “Students feel at home in her class, and Mrs. Albright is willing to do whatever is needed to help students succeed whether it is verbally testing students during her breaks so that they can help demonstrate their knowledge in a different way, or giving up time with her own family to meet students before and after school,” Anthony Van Gessel, associate director of academic programs and planning K-8 for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, wrote in his nomination of Albright.
Along with the principal and another teacher, Albright helped with a two-year comprehensive review of the school’s curriculum, which led to a refinement of the curriculum, giving students a stronger math foundation. She also was described as an embodiment of the Catholic faith to her students and has chaired the social committee, helped with student council and has served as a virtue-based restorative discipline committee member.
Kelsey Grimm | Spanish teacher and director of
De Smet Jesuit High School
During her 10 years at De Smet Jesuit High School, Kelsey Grimm has taught Spanish to sophomores, juniors and seniors, while at the same time creating a faith-based Spanish curriculum for Catholic grade schools. Grimm also is director of the school’s campus ministry, where she is responsible for creating a student-based campus ministry team that shepherds students as they grow in their faith through the sacraments, prayer groups, retreats and service. She creates opportunities for adult faith formation, serves on the school’s adult Ignatian Charism and Student Formation teams and supports vocations through various initiatives. Because of her efforts, De Smet Jesuit has a renewed investment in and relationship with alums who have been called to the priesthood.
“Mrs. Grimm would never expect to be nominated for this award, but I’m sure would be grateful for being a recipient of it, as it would shed light on the great gifts of our faith that we continue to share with students,” Peter Musso, assistant principal of curriculum and instruction, wrote in his nomination.
Lynette Hampton | math teacher
St. Dominic High School
Lynette Hampton invests in every child inside and outside of the classroom, principal Stacy Stewart included in her nomination of Hampton. “Lynette’s number one motive is to invest in the whole child,” she wrote. “She does this every day and helps us lead Catholic education in an ever evolving, complex world.”
Hampton dedicates time before school, during lunch hour and after school to students who need extra support. She also invests in their lives outside of the classroom, attending and interacting with students at extracurricular activities outside of school hours. She serves as a department leader with St. Dominic’s math department and is a member of the Guiding Coalition Leadership team, a group of teachers and administrators who guide and develop goals to increase student achievement. She also seeks to form students as disciples of Jesus.
Daniel Karcher | English teacher
Selfless, diligent and graceful are some of the words used to describe Daniel Karcher. Brett Desnoyer, associate principal for mission and instruction, also described Karcher as a model of servant leadership. In his role as an English teacher and academic department chair, Karcher is a role model for his students, mentoring them to achieve their greatest potential.
Outside of the classroom, Karcher serves as a sacristan, charged with the care of the sacristy, and who helps with the preparation for Mass. He is a retreat leader and helps coordinate the school’s Kairos retreats, is an experiential education trip coordinator, house dean, chairperson of the Mission Integration Team, yearbook moderator and a dramatist and performer.
“If you are looking for a model of Esto Vir, of a life lived as a man the world needs, look no further than this teacher, this husband and father, this colleague and mentor and friend,” Desnoyer said.
Lauren Wright-Jones | Department of Communication Disorders and Deaf Education
Lauren Wright-Jones was described as having exceptional dedication to students and dynamic teaching techniques. She “consistently demonstrates an unwavering commitment to student success and engagement,” Adam Weyhaupt, provost and executive vice president, wrote in his nomination. “Her teaching philosophy revolves around creating an inclusive, stimulating learning environment tailored to diverse learning needs.”
Beyond the classroom, her support for students has included an open-door policy. Her personalized attention fosters enthusiasm for the subject matter among undergraduate and graduate students. She also has initiated the “Building Community Within the 8%” project, which creates space for BIPOC speech-language pathology, audiology and deaf education students and professionals in the St. Louis region.