Home Diocesan News Diocese to honor teachers at Golden Apple dinner May 16
Diocese to honor teachers at Golden Apple dinner May 16 Print E-mail
Friday, 05 May 2017 13:17

The diocesan Office of Catholic Schools has announced the 2017 winners of the Golden Apple Award – including six teachers and one principal.

The teacher recipients are Kristen Clapper, St. Michael School, Canton; Louis Doenges, St. Thomas Aquinas Middle and High School, Louisville; Joni Elson, St. Paul School, North Canton; Kimberly Gray, John F. Kennedy (JFK) Catholic School/Lower Campus, Warren; Kathleen Holsinger, Holy Family School, Poland; and Susan O’Connor, St. Patrick School, Kent. Claire Gatti, principal of St. Michael School, Canton, was also named.



Through a donation of the Donahue Family Foundation of Pittsburgh, the Golden Apple Award honors teachers and administrators in diocesan Catholic schools.

Their selection, from a field of many educators, is a recognition of the commitment and witness of all the Catholic school teachers and administrators throughout the diocese.

Awardees receive a cash award of $5,000, a certificate, a Golden Apple paperweight, and a Golden Apple lapel pin, to be presented at a dinner set for May 16 at the Youngstown Country Club in Liberty. Stan Boney of WKBN-27 First News will serve as master of ceremonies.

A selection process at the school and diocesan level determines the recipients. Full-time teachers or administrators who have served in the designated school for at least three full years are assessed on professional development, commitment to students and school, leadership, service to Church and community, teaching skills, and serving as a role model for Catholic educators.

For further information, contact the Office of Catholic Schools at the diocese, 330-744-8451.

Kristen Clapper, a kindergarten teacher at Canton St. Michael, received her bachelor of science degree in early childhood education/intervention specialist at Walsh University, North Canton. At St. Michael, she has served as the preschool and kindergarten Preview Night co-chair, and has taught technology courses for a diocesan professional development in-service. At St. Barbara Parish in Massillon, she has worked at the festival and as a catechist for Vacation Bible School. She was a lector for the youth ministry Mass at St. Joseph Parish, Massillon. In the community, Clapper is a volunteer instructor for the Compass Dance Academy. In her letter of recommendation, Claire Gatti, principal of St. Michael, writes: “Every Catholic school principal enjoys having a faculty member who is truly dedicated, committed to Catholic education, loves each and every child in her class and has a passion for teaching. That is exactly who Kristen Clapper is at St. Michael School. She spends countless hours working on innovative and creative curriculum strategies, communicating with parents, and creating a classroom atmosphere that is pleasant and inviting. Kristen has the respect of parents and peers.”

Louis Doenges, a social studies teacher at Aquinas, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social studies and global education from The Ohio State University. At Aquinas, Doenges is the Academic Challenge advisor, AV coordinator, and has served as freshman and sophomore class and National Honor Society advisor. He volunteers as a Kairos retreat adult leader and serves on numerous school committees, in addition to being a school Eucharistic minister. For St. Paul Parish in North Canton, he is a Eucharistic minister. For his service to his community, Doenges serves on the Hammer and Nails Project, Refuge of Hope, Alliance Catholic Worker House, and is a Buckeye Boys State counselor. Fritz Schlueter, Aquinas principal, stated: “Mr. Doenges continually strives to improve the lives of St. Thomas Aquinas students and the culture of the school. He is also seen as a leader by the students, parents, and fellow staff members. As a new principal to St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Middle School, I quickly determined that Mr. Doenges was a man that I could and needed to rely on in order for the school to be successful.”

Joni Elson, a fifth-grade language arts and reading teacher at St. Paul, North Canton, received a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Toledo, and a master’s in elementary education at Fayetteville State University. At St. Paul, Elson serves as the OCSAA co-chair, has worked on the OCSAA committee and has been part of the diocesan Leadership Academy. She is the Grandparents Day committee chair and is part of the Veterans Day Committee. For St. Paul Parish, she plans and organizes school Masses and assists in altar server training. In service to her community, Elson is a partner with the North Canton Public Library. Amie Hale, her principal, stated: “Joni has proven to be a treasured asset to the staff. As a teacher, Joni always puts her students first. She plans exciting lessons that grasp their attention and keep them motivated. Joni’s passion for educating students is what has led to her success as an educator. Of the many educators I have known over my career, few are of the same caliber as Joni Elson. Her students speak highly of her and enjoy being in her class.”

Kimberly Gray, a fourth-grade teacher at Warren John F. Kennedy Catholic School, received a bachelor of science in elementary and special education from Youngstown State University. At JFK, Gray has been an in-service presenter for PBIS Strategies, Learning Through Rotations, and Intervention in the Classroom. She volunteered for the Just for Kicks Auction and the Prince and Princess Ball and is program director for the Invention Convention. At Warren Blessed Sacrament Parish, Gray serves as a confirmation catechist, team leader for Community Outreach Day, Eucharistic minister, lector and confirmation sponsor. In her community, she volunteers with Ronald McDonald House and United Way. Jackie Venzeio, principal of JFK’s Lower Campus, wrote in support of Gray’s nomination: “Kim has so much compassion for children. She goes out of her way to make sure she is meeting the needs of all of her students. She makes sure she reaches them emotionally before proceeding to reach them academically. So many parents have praises for Mrs. Gray. Not only does Kim run a classroom where creativity is embraced, but she runs a very structured and calm classroom that is cohesive to the best learning possible.”

Kathleen Holsinger, a fourth-grade teacher at Holy Family, Poland, received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At her school, Holsinger served on the Holy Family Advisory Committee, the steering committee for OCSAA, has been a Camp Fitch coordinator and helped with confirmation preparation. At Holy Family Parish, she is a Eucharistic minister, worked on the teams for marriage preparation and Christ Renews His Parish, and was a Children’s Liturgy of the Word teacher. In community service, Holsinger has, through Catholic Charities, fostered 13 infants from birth to permanent placement for periods from two weeks to nine months. Kathleen Stoops, Holy Family principal, wrote in support of Holsinger’s nomination: “Mrs. Holsinger is responsible for developing children, mind and soul, during one of the most critical years of social development. She takes a personal interest in her students, building strong, positive relationships. Mrs. Holsinger stands out among her peers as a hard-working and strong role model. It is evident that she has a strong faith and is able to project that in her teaching, interactions with peers, and involvement in parish life.”

Susan O’Connor, a third-grade teacher at St. Patrick, Kent, received a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Radford University. At St. Patrick, O’Connor mentors student teachers and first-year teachers, and provides in-service on the RADAR math problem-solving program that she created with fellow teachers. She is chair of the staff development committee and the Sunshine Committee, and has been a board member for preschool development. For St. Patrick Parish, O’Connor is a Eucharistic minister. In service to her community, she participates in canned food drives, prepared food for a soup kitchen and took part in a Walk For Life. Howard Mancini, principal of St. Patrick School, stated: “Her work as a classroom teacher is one of the reasons that St. Patrick is considered by many to be one of the top schools in Portage County. She is energetic and enthusiastic when presenting her lessons, and it is very evident – based on her students’ classroom participation and response – that she is able to reach all of her students and bring out the best in each and every one of them. Her contributions are many and she has been a mainstay of third grade.”

The recipient of this year’s award for principal is Claire Gatti, of St. Michael, Canton. Gatti received a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and a master’s from Ashland University. A few of the many services she has provided to the school include instituting the 21st Century Initiative “Entrepreneurs, Engineering, & Internship,” establishing many new after-school programs, launching two fund-raising initiatives that brought in over $100,000, implementing the OLWEUS anti-bullying program and beginning enrichment classes for grades 4-6. She instituted morning child care and designed a preschool and kindergarten fair for prospective families. At St. Michael Parish, Gatti is a Eucharistic minister and serves on the parish executive advisory council, pastoral council and finance committee. She has supported the American Cancer Society, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association and St. Jude Hospital. In supporting Gatti’s nomination, Father Donald King, pastor of St. Michael, wrote: “Claire is a natural in the job of principal of a Catholic school. She is a person who lives her faith daily, who worships regularly with the parish community and who shares that faith in very visible and genuine ways. I feel confident that as long as Claire is in charge of our school, its Catholicity will be unquestioned.”


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