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Catholic School Leadership Award honorees are making a difference

May 30, 2017 | posted by

Those who inspire active learning and quality education were honored at the 26th Annual Catholic Schools Leadership Awards gala, held May 12 at the OMNI Hotel at the Colonnade. Ernie Zuniga from Fox 29’s “Fox News First” served as emcee for the evening, and young men from the Central Catholic High School JROTC presented the colors as young women from the Providence High School Choir sang the national anthem.

In his remarks, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, commented on the energy and joy in the hotel ballroom that evening. “Tonight we celebrate!” he exclaimed. “We do so because we have amazing people! Amazing people who have given of themselves with love and joy, and who have made great sacrifices for the success and growth of our young people.

The archbishop also mentioned the great history that would be celebrated, from schools that have been around for a long time — such as Central Catholic in downtown San Antonio, to Our Lady of Grace School in Pleasanton, which is relatively new. “This means that we have both a great tradition, and a great future! Catholic schools are alive!”

The San Antonio prelate emphasized that he was particularly moved by the great sacrifices of teachers and principals, of pastors and parents, who keep the hope of Catholic education alive through their commitment and hard work. “And this is the core of our reason for coming together tonight! We are here to honor the people who make a difference!” he stressed. “To celebrate the women and men who work directly with our children in the classroom, on the playground, and at the field or gymnasium to make their lives better.”

Archbishop Gustavo praised teachers as ones who not only impart knowledge to kids, “but also inspire confidence within them, celebrate our kids’ successes, dry their tears on a rough day, and who give them a sense of their future and potential. That is pretty awesome!”

The archbishop then added something deeper to this: faith. “In Catholic schools we not only share knowledge and teach our children to think, even more, we share with them the beauty and mystery of our faith!” he explained. “And we do this by worshiping and praying with them, teaching the fundamentals of our faith to them, and by living the meaning of our faith as examples for their lives.”

The Missionary of the Holy Spirit then told the crowd that he wanted them to remember that they do not do this alone. “We are aided and supported by the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit inspires us so often in what we need to say, or in what we need to do. My dear teachers and principals, don’t hold back from praying to the Holy Spirit for your needs!” he urged.

Following his comments, the archbishop and Marti West, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the archdiocese, presented a number of awards to schools, teachers, administrators, and supporters. They were assisted by Cindy Vela, assistant superintendent of Catholic Schools.

Ten schools were recognized for observing significant anniversaries. These included: Our Lady of the Hills Regional Catholic School in Kerrville, 15 years; St. Thomas More Catholic School, 55 years; St. John Bosco Catholic School, 60 years; Holy Cross of San Antonio, 60 years; St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, 75 years; St. Gerard Catholic High School, 90 years; Notre Dame Catholic School in Kerrville, 100 years; St. Anthony Catholic School, 110 years; Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in New Braunfels, 145 years; and Central Catholic High School, 165 years.

Catholic school teachers of the year were then recognized. They were: Antonian College Preparatory High School, Yazmina Turner; St. Anthony Catholic High School, Sheila Kizzart; Blessed Sacrament School, Lela Reyes; St. Anthony Elementary School, Steve Pocrnichl; Central Catholic High School, Jonathan Kiesler; St. Gregory the Great Catholic School, Suzette Gimbel; Holy Cross of San Antonio, Cynthia Lafuente, St. James Catholic School in Seguin, Brenda Allen; Holy Name Catholic School, Cecilia Ramirez; St. James the Apostle Catholic School, Genevieve Suniga-Joaisdy; Holy Spirit Catholic School, Maria Littlefield; St. John Berchmans Catholic School, Irene Quintero; Incarnate Word High School, Richard Boyd; St. John Bosco Catholic School, Cecilia Aguallo; Little Flower School; Jannette Rodriguez; St. John Paul II Catholic High School in New Braunfels, Heather Patillo; Sacred Heart Catholic School, Ericka Martinez; St. Leo the Great Catholic School; Evelyn Kompier; Notre Dame Catholic School in Kerrville; Denise Martin; St. Louis Catholic School in Castroville; Judy Clutter; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Schertz, Gloria Moser; St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, Carmen Cantu; Our Lady of the Hills Regional Catholic High School in Kerrville, Maureen Driscoll; St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, Denise Terry; Providence Catholic School, Sarah Salinas; St. Mary School in Fredericksburg; Jeretta West; Rolling Hills Catholic School, April Hallfrisch; St. Monica Catholic School, Lisa Jordan; Sacred Heart School in Del Rio, Jane Steffey; St. Paul Catholic School, Rosalind Wyatt; Sacred Heart School in Floresville, Patricia Reile; St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles Catholic School, Suzanna Navarro; Sacred Heart School in Uvalde; Norma Garcia; St. Pius X Catholic School, Agatha Christian; Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in New Braunfels, Rebecca Mercer.

After these awards were presented, the four Archdiocesan Teacher of the Year finalists were announced. Superintendent West said that in the past only three finalists had been selected each year, but due to the quality of this year’s candidates, the committee expanded the group to include four. The finalists were Jannette Rodriguez from Little Flower Catholic School, Ericka Martinez from Mount Sacred Heart Catholic School, Sarah Salinas from Providence Catholic School, and Brenda Allen from St. James Catholic School in Seguin. From these distinguished educators, Rodriguez was announced as the Archdiocesan Teacher of the Year. (A profile of Rodriguez, a pre-kindergarten teacher, will appear in the next June 9 edition of Today’s Catholic newspaper).

Four Outstanding Leaders in Catholic Education were also given recognition at the gala, with each receiving a $1,000 Hope for the Future Award for designation to their school. Honorees were Diana Gracia from Holy Cross of San Antonio, who designated her award gift to the Principal’s Partners Tuition Assistance Program; Michael Mosel from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in New Braunfels, who designed his award gift to School Enrichment Programs; Sister Ann Petrus, CDP from Providence Catholic School, who designated her award gift to Provet TV; and Margaret Webb from Holy Spirit Catholic School, who designated her award gift to the Guardian Angel Fund. This year, Brother Stanley Culotta, CSC, MD, president emeritus of Holy Cross of San Antonio, received the Servant Leader award at the event. Videos featuring each of the honors are posted on the Catholic Schools website and can be viewed at

Lastly, Amy Hone, director of Hope for the Future, announced the annual “Ernie Zuniga Scholar” award. This scholarship is given in honor of the event’s long-time emcee, himself a product of Catholic schools in Victoria, to Alexandra Arkangel, a graduating senior at Antonian College Preparatory High School.