Like most educators, Maureen Van Becelaere is a woman of few words when it comes to talking about herself.
The second-grade teacher at Our Lady of Presentation was overjoyed after being named winner of the school’s Sisters of Charity Award for Excellence in Catholic Education Feb. 1 at an all-school assembly inside the auditorium. That she struggled to find the right words to explain how she felt about the award wasn’t a surprise, nor were the comments on nominations forms submitted by faculty, staff and students at OLP.
A veteran of 25 years in teaching – 15 at OLP – Van Becelaere was a humbled soul after the presentation.
“I was very honored and surprised,” she said after receiving the award from Ann-Marie Novak, last year’s teacher of the year. “I just feel really special. I love it here. I love my class. I love Presentation.”
The school’s Sisters of Charity award is given to a teacher who demonstrates a dedication and service to the school. Students, staff and parents can nominate a faculty member. An outside panel of Catholic education professionals reviews the anonymous nominations. The recipient receives a plaque and a $1,000 check provided by the school’s PTO.
“It’s wonderful,” Van Becelaere said. “It’s quite an honor. I mean we’ve had some great teachers of the year, so I feel really honored to get this.”
In presenting the honor, John O’Connor, principal of both Archbishop O’Hara High School and St. Mary’s High School, read from nominations forms the virtues of Van Becelaere.
“(Van Becelaere) has impacted the lives of countless students,” O’Connor said. “Many nominations describe her caring spirit; one parent sums it up perfectly, saying ‘Simply, she does not just teach, she loves.’ Her kindness is apparent to the student’s, too. Here are some quotes from some student nominations: ‘She gives me hugs on the end of Fridays’... ‘She laughs at all my jokes!’...‘When I am at school with my teacher she makes me feel happy inside, like I swallowed sunshine.’
“She exemplifies the Catholic virtues, and Father Tom (Holder) will be happy to hear from one student that ‘she never skips church.’ Many of the nominations focused on her ability to adapt to the children’s needs and individualize her instruction. Perhaps one of the most touching aspects of this teacher’s dedication is her willingness to share her personal time with her students. She tries to attend every one of her student’s First Communions each year, and many nominations reported her having attending a game or an activity. She truly is treasured here at OLP.”
To which the school’s principal, Jodi Briggs, said: “Mrs. Van Becelaere truly exemplifies what it means to be a Catholic educator. She has spent her entire career in Catholic education and is a product of the Catholic school system. And the love and the commitment that she displays is truly amazing.”