February 23, 2017
Teaching trio all smiles to learn they are first Golden Apple award winners
GREENSBURG — Three teachers at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Greensburg received surprise Publisher Clearing House-type visits in their classrooms Feb. 13 when they learned they are winners of the diocese’s first Golden Apple Awards for teaching excellence.
Dr. Maureen Marsteller, superintendent of Catholic schools, arrived unannounced with the good news and gold balloons in hand.
The award, which includes a cash prize, $5,000, which will be presented to the winners at the first Celebration of Catholic Schools Breakfast, March 9, from 8-10 a.m. at the Greensburg Country Club. This award is made possible by the Donahue Family Foundation.
The awards honor outstanding educators for their distinction in and out of the classroom, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching or administration in the Diocese of Greensburg’s Catholic schools, according to Mallory Reese, diocesan director of development for corporations and foundations, who helped make the award announcements.
The honorees are: Bernadette Grace, a third-grade teacher at Mary Queen of Apostles School, New Kensington, where she has served for four years; Christy Gilkey, a fifth-grade teacher at Queen of Angels Catholic School, North Huntingdon, where she has served for 10 years; and Joette Salandro, a performing arts teacher at Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School, where she has served for 27 years.
“It was a thrill to see the teachers’ reactions and how their students were just as excited as their teachers. Marsteller said. “I hope the award program and breakfast are the beginning of a grand tradition of celebrating all that is great about Catholic education in our diocese.”
In addition to the Golden Apple Awards, the breakfast will feature the awarding of Innovation Grants to advance learning in the classroom and recognition of the businesses that support Catholic education by contributing to the Scholarship Partners Foundation through the state-sponsored EITC tax credit programs.
Bernadette Grace, Mary Queen of Apostles School, New Kensington
Grace teaches at the Freeport Road site of Mary Queen of Apostles School. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Penn State and a master’s in elementary education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and became a teacher as a second career after working for many years at GNC as a manager, trainer and franchisee.
She had missed the previous week of school, spending it with her six siblings due to the death of her mother, and almost took off Monday.
“The Golden Apple Award was the last thing on my mind,” she said. “The kids’ reaction was priceless. They thought they had won.
“Their joy was infectious. God sends new blessings every day.”
A resident of Pittsburgh, Grace is a parishioner of North American Martyrs Parish, Monroeville, and frequently worships at Mount St. Peter Parish, which is adjacent to the school building in which she teaches.
“My decision to teach at MQA is affirmed daily,” she wrote in the award application essay. “I do believe my calling to teach is providence. I teach in a Catholic school because I want to, and I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Grace also teaches Spanish in first through third grade; is a youth basketball official; on the boards of the Sprout Fund’s Change Machine, which provides grants to youth-led initiative, and the Gals Scholarship Foundation; and is active in parish ministries that benefit local food pantries and pro-life groups.
Christy Gilkey, Queen of Angels Catholic School, North Huntingdon
Gilkey, who teaches fifth-grade math and language arts and science for grades 5-7, was all smiles when she received the good news during her seventh-grade class.
“I was very surprised and excited. It took a little while to sink in,” she said. “The students were happy for me. We have a mutual appreciation since this is my third year with this group.”
She embraces the ministry of fostering the spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth of her students and loves watching their transformation as they progress through the school.
“The first- and second-graders radiate the love of God to our school community. It is fulfilling to watch the upper elementary students coming into their own as they grow in skill and confidence,” she said in her application essay.
“Watching the transformation in our middle schoolers over the years brings me a sense of pride and appreciation to be part of their journey.”
Gilkey said that there are days when students help her see Jesus’ love, compassion and understanding.
“My awareness is brought back to my faith as they reflect the Christian message of hope in their words and actions,” said Gilkey, who lives in North Huntingdon and is a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin.
“I love what I do.”
In addition to her wide-ranging service to the school, Gilkey is active in her parish as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and a volunteer at fundraising events and the Kentucky Project, which helps people in need in Appalachia.
Gilkey began her educational career as a Montessori teacher at the Carlow College Campus School (1994-99). She was a preschool teacher at St. Bartholomew School, Pittsburgh, (2001-07) before joining the Queen of Angels faculty in 2007.
She has a bachelor’s from Pitt-Johnstown, a master’s of education from Carlow University, Pittsburgh, and an elementary principal certificate.
She and her husband, Brian, have two children who are high school students at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Her mother, Linda Pricer, was a teacher and principal at St. Bartholomew School, Pittsburgh, and received a Golden Apple award from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Joette Salandro, Greensburg Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School
Salandro is in her second tour of duty at GCC. She taught there from 1980-86, then left to serve as director of music at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish. She returned to GCC in 1995 and has been there since.
“I was truly speechless when Dr. Marsteller and Ben Althof (GCC principal) walked into the band class,” she said. “I am truly humbled by my selection.”
Ironically, she never intended to teach. She was asked to direct a play at GCC and loved working with the students. That led to her first job at GCC in 1980.
“Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “I like what I do.”
She teaches vocal and instrumental music, drama, and music theory; directs the 7th- and 8th-grade chorus; directs the high school choir and band; and directs four plays every school year, a drama and musical for both the junior high and senior high students.
In her application, Salandro said she is “passionate about teaching and learning.”
“Most importantly, I have the freedom within the Catholic school system to assist students in their faith formation through daily prayer, liturgical celebrations and the study of religious music,” she said.
Salandro has a bachelor of music degree from Seton Hill University, Greensburg, a master of fine arts degree in opera theater from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and studied at Shenandoah University, Winchester, Va., earning a music certificate.
She serves in music ministry as a cantor at St. Bartholomew Parish, Crabtree, her home parish, and as choir director and cantor at St. Vincent Basilica Parish, Latrobe. She is active in other activities at St. Bartholomew Parish, including the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival.