By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Jaclyn McNamee, second grade teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle Elementary School, won a Heart of the School Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools.
McNamee was one of 16 elementary and secondary school teachers and staff members chosen for the annual award. The award is given to teachers for their outstanding, unique and innovative accomplishments in providing faith, focus and achievement for students, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools.
The staff, faculty members and parents of St. Thomas, 5467 S. Woodlawn Ave., surprised McNamee with the announcement and presented her with flowers last Thursday evening in the school’s auditorium.
McNamee won in the Rising Star category of the competition. The Rising Star award is given to teachers who have taught at a school for three years or less who contribute to the success of the school by exhibiting vigor, enthusiasm and excellence in the classroom and are involved in extra-curricular activities.
Candace Scheidt, principal at St. Thomas, said that the award perfectly describes McNamee and the work she has been doing at the school.
“She has a quiet demeanor but she is a dynamic teacher,” Scheidt said. “She works quietly but makes a strong impact.”
Before coming to St. Thomas, McNamee, who is from Philadelphia, received her bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in education from Villanova University in Villanova, Penn. She was assigned to St. Thomas as a volunteer through the Inner City Teacher Corps program. Once she completed her two years of service she was hired full time as a second grade teacher. In June, McNamee obtained her master’s degree in education from Northwestern University.
Since becoming a teacher at St. Thomas, McNamee has become the school’s literacy site leader, co-founder of the family book night and helps with the theater club and reading and writing club.
“My goal is to get kids to love learning and expose them to all the resources available to them,” McNamee said.
McNamee said she is honored to have received the award but felt weird about getting an award for what she does every day.
“I love this job and I love the kids and a big part of my success has been working at St. Thomas,” McNamee said.
She said she has always felt comfortable working at St. Thomas because it reminds her of St. Laurentius, the elementary school she attended in Philadelphia.
“The people I work with at St. Thomas are an extraordinary group,” McNamee said. “Everyone pushes each other to do their best work.”
Previous winners of the awards from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools include Patrick Driscoll, 5th grade teacher at St. Thomas, who won in 2012, and preschool teacher Marina Mardrus, who won in 2005.