Norwalk Catholic and St. Paul school staff honored

Cary Ashby • May 13, 2019 at 10:05 AM

Norwalk Catholic and St. Paul High schools honored and celebrated their finest educators Thursday.

Four people received the first-ever Agnes C. “Stoll” Riley Culture of Excellence in Teaching Award. She was the first St. Paul valedictorian in the new four-year school in 1923. Riley, who later taught fourth grade there, was the class secretary, earned a typing medal for great skills and was one of the first St. Paul girl basketball players. (Athletics for girls was added in the fall of 1922.)

The recipients were: Lisa Abel, who teaches Spanish for kindergartners through eighth grade, intervention specialist Julie Badovick, St. Paul chemistry and physics teacher Jim Swabley and Keri Zendejas, a preschool teacher at the NCS Early Childhood Education Center.

Many of Riley’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren have attended NCS and St. Paul.

“She would be proud of St. Paul school and all the students (who) are doing well,” said her grandson, Joel Hipp.

The school also honored 10 educators and two administrators for their years of service Thursday. Those people are: Fourth-grade teacher Brenda Careless (30), first-grade teacher Carol Corrigan (30), fourth-grade teacher Julee Fries (33), elementary school music teacher Martin Hanke (11), John Livengood, St. Paul athletic director and dean of students (30), St. Paul Spanish teacher Peggy Lucas (35), sixth-grade teacher Mary Kay Mollhaun (20), kindergarten teacher Jennifer Nardeccia (10), preschool aide Lori Rospert (18), Bonnie Shelley, a preschool aide at the NCS Early Childhood Education Center (20), bus driver Ann Ulery (nine) and fifth-grade teacher Lynette Ware (25).

There were 29 nominations for the Agnes C. “Stoll” Riley Culture of Excellence in Teaching Award. A committee consisting of four parents, four teachers and governing board member Corinne Ross narrowed down the field.

Committee members selected Abel, Badovick, Swabley and Zendejas based on four categories: Strong Christian values and school spirit; transcending the curriculum and student growth; professional development, technology and innovation; and finally, leadership and collaboration.

Abel’s nominees said “I do not think she realizes how helpful she has been the past three years” and “when she is not here, the school is missing a very vital person.” In addition to be honored for teaching prayers in Spanish, she also translates during parent conferences and phone calls in her free time.

One of Badovick’s nominees called her “the most caring and understanding and helpful mentor to our granddaughter” and even years after graduation, Badovick has shown “her care and and concern in asking about her.”

Swabley was recognized for being at his best when the job is difficult or complex, researching needs and identifying multiple solutions to a problem and spending his summers “reviewing experiments, presentations and documenting programs to help his students achieve at a high level.” One of his nominees said “he steps up to make sure things happen for anyone … albeit in his quiet way.”

Zendejas, known for greeting students at the door daily and speaking “in a kind-hearted way,” has provided “a Christmas for a family in need,” Ross said. She also was honored for providing summer tutoring sessions and continuing to engage with her students years after preschool.

Msgr. Ken Morman also honored NCS President Dennis Doughty, who will retire at the end of the school year, following 43 years in public and Catholic school education. His successor will be Martin Linder, a 1999 St. Paul graduate who starts Aug. 1. 

Doughty exemplifies Catholic education by paying it forward and being a role model for others, said Morman, who admittedly was awed by Doughty’s “can-do attitude” during his interview to be the NCS president. The priest also mentioned how difficult it would be to say how many people in the community Doughty has influenced.

“He is a living example to us,” Morman said. “I still think hiring Denny as our president was the one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.”

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