Teachers Recognized with 2020 Silver Sword Awards

Each year, Lourdes Academy recognizes three teachers with the Silver Sword Award. Teachers and staff are nominated by parents for their dedication to students and going above and beyond to foster a love of life-long learning in their classrooms.

Karen Coats, Maddie VanVreede, and Carrie O’Connor were scheduled to be honored at the 10th Annual Awards and Recognition Dinner on April 24th. While we had to cancel the event and aren’t able to recognize them in person this year, we still want to share why they were nominated and selected as Lourdes Academy’s 2020 Silver Sword Award winners.

Karen Coats – 3rd Grade Teacher: Karen has been teaching at Lourdes Academy for more than 10 years. She is a team player who does an amazing job incorporating unique, hands-on learning experiences in her classroom to help students understand and retain information. A few examples of these experiences include:

  • iXL Math – Karen was a pioneer in introducing this online program into her classroom and now has one of the world’s leading classrooms for participation in the program. When the success of iXL spread to other classrooms, she worked with iXL to get free trial subscriptions for science, social studies, math and language arts for other teachers and grade levels, allowing the elementary school to implement the program more broadly until funding was secured.
  • Theater – each year she coordinates a Christmas play and Poetry Live production, which helps students to showcase their talents, gain self confidence and learn in an out-of-the-box way.
  • Greenhouse – Karen has operated a greenhouse out of her classroom for several years, which helps students learn about botany and the growing process, as well as healthy eating. Students grow vegetables in their greenhouse and then have “salad” together, tasting the fresh produce they’ve grown.
  • Pen Pals – Each year Karen’s students become “Pen Pals” with the retired Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Throughout the school year they practice writing skills and visit the Sisters in person to do service projects together.

According to the parent who submitted Karen’s nomination, “Karen’s enthusiasm and energy is inspiring. She is creative and has the ability to tailor learning to each individual student’s way of understanding. Recognizing that each student has unique gifts, helping to nurture those gifts, and giving students the confidence to grow academically and spiritually are marks of a truly amazing teacher.”

Maddie VanVreede – 5th Grade Teacher: Maddie is finishing up her 4th year teaching at Lourdes Academy, having taught 1st grade her first 2 years at Lourdes.

With her passion for all things Harry Potter, Maddie goes above and beyond to make her classroom a fun learning environment for students — fostering a love for reading, writing, and creativity. She challenges students to go beyond status quo and recognizes when a student may need a gentle push to work toward their full potential.

Maddie connects with students on a personal level — wanting to know
about their interests and what they do outside the school walls. The parent nomination letter she received shared examples of going to sporting events on weekends to support students and volunteering to coach 5th grade basketball.

Maddie is also more than happy to have her classroom be the room students hang out in after school, allowing students time to interact with the class pet (a bearded dragon), gather books from her classroom library to take home, or catch up on homework.

As written by the parent who nominated her, “Maddie is a perfect fit for 5th grade, with her calm positive personality helping students and parents transition into the middle school building. She has found her niche with 5th grade, and I’m thankful that we have the wonderful opportunity to have her as a teacher here at Lourdes Academy!”

Carrie O’Connor – High School Science Teacher: Carrie is an alumnus of Lourdes Academy who has chosen to return as a teacher to share her love of science and her passion for Lourdes with our current students.

As stated in the parent nomination letter, “Carrie is knowledgeable in her subject areas and enthusiastic to share that knowledge with her students. She takes the time to get to know her students and what motivates them to learn, and encourages them in the learning process. Carrie remains one of my daughter’s favorite teachers to date, 2 years out of high school.”

Carrie’s commitment extends beyond the high school classroom and school day. She volunteers her time at STEM Knight, developing fun activities to help elementary students learn STEM principles. She also recently volunteered to go along with the 6th graders on their Trees for Tomorrow overnight field trip when a middle school colleague was unable to attend.

Last year, Carrie agreed to take over as the senior class advisor. She invested extra time to make sure that the seniors had a memorable experience that they’d take with them when they graduated. She planned a Senior Service Day to help people in the community; a Senior Parent dinner where students could thank their parents for their support; and a Senior Lock-In where students painted the high school conference room as a way to give back to the school.

Carrie recognizes that our high school students are seeking independence and responsibility. She places her trust and confidence in them, gives them a voice, and allows them to become leaders in action, not just in title.

Carrie also serves on the Lourdes Alumni Association, helping spread the good news of Lourdes with our alumni around the country. Carrie’s loyalty, dedication, leadership and faith in our future leaders are just a few of the qualities that make Carrie a phenomenal teacher.

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