Celebrating Excellence 2022

Each year, the Niagara Catholic District School Board celebrates our students, staff, and alumni through the Celebrating Excellence Awards.

This year, the Awards took place on Thursday, May 5 at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre, as part of the Board’s Catholic Education Week celebrations.

Celebrating Excellence is broken up into three parts:

The Catch the Spirit Student Award of Excellence is presented to one student from each elementary and secondary school and one student from our Continuing Education Learning Centres. They are recognized for demonstrating outstanding qualities in the following areas:

Catholic Leadership • Catholic Faith and Catholic School Philosophy • Family Commitment School Community Relations • High Degree of Academic Excellence
Involvement in Community Activities • Commitment to a Difficult Situation or Task

Inspiration Awards are presented annually to exemplary Niagara Catholic colleagues who embody the Mission, Vision and Values of our system, vocation, and our call to serve students, colleagues, and our Catholic community. The Inspiration Award is presented in recognition of faithful, passionate, innovative, and extraordinary contributions to Niagara Catholic.

Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented annually to graduates from a Catholic secondary school in our Board who have achieved distinguished success in their adult life. Our award recipients are recognized for achieving and reflecting the characteristics described by the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations.

For the 2021-2022 school year, Niagara Catholic is pleased to recognize the following individuals:


 Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School Family of Schools

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School Vanessa Brunetti
St. Edward Catholic Elementary School Jacob Crawford
St. John Catholic Elementary School Maya Metelsky
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School Keydal Barrantes Salas
St. Mark Catholic Elementary School Chiara Nicolazzo
St. Martin Catholic Elementary School Elizabeth Hutton
Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School Ben Kelly

Denis Morris Catholic High School Family of Schools

Monsignor Clancy Catholic Elementary School Alexander Ernest
St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School Max Hardy
St. Charles Catholic Elementary School Dean Thompson
St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School Abigail Breen
St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School Khloe Rivera
St. Peter Catholic Elementary School Krystyna Wojtas
St. Theresa Catholic Elementary School Aidan Murphy
Denis Morris Catholic High School Jedidiah  De Mesa

 Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Family of Schools

Assumption Catholic Elementary School Chelsea Tiller
Canadian Martyrs Catholic Elementary School Samantha Frydryk
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School Nathan Osborne
St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School Sarah  White
St. Michael Catholic Elementary School Julia Rezza
Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Taya Ditto

 Lakeshore Catholic High School Family of Schools

Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School Mollee Morin
St. Elizabeth Catholic Elementary School Piper McSween
St. George Catholic Elementary School Reece Richards
St. John Bosco Catholic Elementary School Claire Payne
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School Alessia Carlesso
St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School Adam Saltarelli
St. Philomena Catholic Elementary School Tallis Felt
St. Therese Catholic Elementary School Easton Frey
Lakeshore Catholic High School Emma McCormack

Notre Dame College School Family of Schools

Alexander Kuska Catholic Elementary School Nicholas Bouchard
Holy Name Catholic Elementary School Dayita Julien
St. Alexander Catholic Elementary School Aidan Lucchetta
St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School Elizabeth  Rocca
St. Ann Catholic Elementary School Baileigh Vasas
St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School Evio DiMario
St. Kevin Catholic Elementary School Tino Muzah
St. Mary Catholic Elementary School Phoenix  Williams
Notre Dame College School Arwen Arzadon

Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School Family of Schools

St. Ann Catholic Elementary School Claudia Dikic
St. Denis Catholic Elementary School Emma Bridges
St. James Catholic Elementary School Jacob Kowalczyk
St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School Alexandra Diaz Ariza
Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School Jordyn Nesbit

Saint Michael Catholic High School Family of Schools

Father Hennepin Catholic Elementary School Arielle Zylstra
Loretto Catholic Elementary School Lillian Attree
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School John LeRose
Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School Valentina Aquilina
Saint Michael Catholic High School Matthew Michitsch

Saint Paul Catholic High School Family of Schools

Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School Myles Quintyn
Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School Jesse DiDomenico
St. Gabriel Lalemant Catholic Elementary School Samantha Stefanac
St. John Henry Newman Catholic Elementary School Olivia Fera
St. Mary Catholic Elementary School Natalie Eckhardt
St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School Kristof Takacs
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School Ivana Mascia
Saint Paul Catholic High School Milana Abbruscato

Other Sites

Continuing Education Antonella Vadacchino
Niagara Catholic Virtual Elementary School Richard Valderrama
Pope Francis Catholic Elementary School Damen Marchand
Pope Francis Catholic Secondary School William McLean



 Leonora Amorim, St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School

Leonora Amorim is an ESL Instructor, who has worked for Niagara Catholic for more than 13 years, and has spent more than seven years at St. Alfred and St. Ann Catholic Elementary Schools in St. Catharines. She takes the time to get to know each ESL student and their families to ensure she meets each person’s unique needs. She is generous with her time and resources to ensure no student is left out.

Her co-workers describe her as the first person to offer to help out, whether it is for duty coverage, or meetings with settlement workers, students, and their families. Everything she does is without expectation for recognition and colleagues say she inspires everyone to be better versions of themselves.

Glenn Gifford, Saint Michael Catholic High School

Glenn Gifford has spent nearly three decades with Niagara Catholic as a teacher, Program Chair, Vice-Principal and Principal. He has been principal of Saint Michael Catholic High School for the past four years.

Glenn is described by colleagues as a dedicated, passionate principal who has a student-centered approach to leadership and gives 100 percent effort for the benefit of students. His staff credit him for his respect for them and trusting them to lead in their own classrooms and to meet the needs of students. He has created a culture of respect within the school.

Throughout the pandemic, he found ways to make school fun and engaging within the COVID protocols and spent many hours working with Public Health and with families far beyond the school day to ensure the community had the information necessary to stay safe and well.

John Giroux, Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School

John Giroux has been a part of the Niagara Catholic staff for nearly 30 years, most of them at Holy Cross Catholic secondary school. He is described by colleagues as kind, compassionate, patient, optimistic, hard-working, committed, professional, genuine, humble, and rooted in faith.

John has a love of mathematics and has been a math coach for many years. He is a life-long learner and is always keen to share what he has learned at conferences with colleagues throughout the Board. He blends his love of technology and mathematics to build an inclusive, fun, and positive environment for students to learn.

John can often be found on his lunch hour coaching students for math competitions or helping struggling students learn new concepts. He also coaches boys’ and girls’ basketball and golf, as well as football and chess. He is active in his parish and in the community.

Joan Kelly, St. Anthony/St. Augustine Catholic Elementary Schools

Joan Kelly is a Library Technician at St. Anthony and St. Augustine Catholic Elementary Schools. She is described by her colleagues as being an advocate for students and forming an excellent rapport with the students she encounters. She not only ensures that students have the resources they need to succeed, but she also ensures students have clothing, Christmas gifts, and other items to ensure they feel included and that they belong.

She consistently looks for ways to improve the student experience and strives to be a bright light to all she meets. She gives her time and talents to sew cushions to ensure a comfortable reading area in the library, and to lead interest groups during unstructured times at school so students can uncover their own gifts and talents.

Jay Naphin, Denis Morris Catholic High School

Jay Naphin has spent half of his 22-year teaching career at Denis Morris Catholic High School. He is defined as a teacher, coach, mentor, and counsellor to students and staff every single day, who demonstrates his faithfulness to God through his actions at school and in his parish.

Jay helped organize and operate weight rooms at Denis Morris and Saint Michael Catholic High Schools and has been an assistant coach and head coach for senior football teams over 18 years and is also head coach of the boys’ baseball team. He has prepared students for the Niagara Regional Moot Court, served as a chaperone on student trips to Europe, and organizes the Student Vote campaign during elections. He organizes the school’s Remembrance Day ceremony, assists with the breakfast club, supports students with after school study hall and is Eucharistic Minister at his parish.

Anna Pascuzzi, Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School

Anna Pascuzzi has spent her entire 11-year career as an Early Childhood Educator at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School.

Her days begin early, as she arrives to give herself plenty of time to wash fruit and prepare snack packages for every classroom in the school. Unused boxed lunches are unpacked and shared in the hallway for students who need an afternoon snack. Anna also helps organize the area where warm winter wear and dress code items are stored for students in need. She puts the needs of others ahead of herself and gives up personal time in service to others.

Every student knows Mrs. P, and everyone she engages with comes away confident that they are loved and cared for.

Rosanne Sandel, St. George Catholic Elementary School

Rosanne Sandel has been principal of St. George Catholic Elementary School for five years. Half of that time has been in the shadow of COVID.

Despite the challenges of supporting her school community through the pandemic, Rosanne rose to the occasion, making sure special events like First Communions, confirmations and graduations were memorable. She embroidered face masks for students for each occasion, and when they were unable to sing in church, she taught them sign language so they could sign the words.

Rosanne has persevered through adversity to forge relationships with her students and their families, and with local businesses in her community to engage and empower students. Many local businesses have stepped up to support the school and Rosanne has responded in kind, reaching out to support them in return, as a thank you for the support provided to students and staff.

Matthew Smith, Saint Paul Catholic High School

Matthew Smith has been an Educational Assistant at the Board for 18 years and has been at his current assignment at Saint Paul Catholic High School for three-and-a-half years.

Matthew is described by his co-workers as helpful, caring, resourceful, and ready to serve, regardless of the task, and places the well-being and safety of his students at the forefront of all he does. He is credited for his tremendous dedication to the Board, his school, colleagues, and students, proof that he views what he does as a calling rather than a job and exemplifying servant-leadership and Christ-centered loved. He works with his assigned students and with others, encouraging everyone to reach their full potential. His enthusiasm is evident in all he does, and he is devoted to the students entrusted into his care, ensuring everyone finds a reason to laugh and feel good about themselves.


Dr. Sabrina DiLonardo-Burr, Saint Paul Catholic High School, Class of 2006, Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School, 2002

Dr. Sabrina DiLonardo-Burr
Dr. Sabrina DiLonardo-Burr

Dr. Sabrina DiLonardo-Burr attended Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School and Saint Paul Catholic High School, where she excelled in academics. Graduating from Saint Paul in 2006, Sabrina then attended Western University where she received an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and received a Master of Science and Education Specialist degrees in Counselling and Human Systems. Sabrina was two degrees shy of a third degree, in Actuarial Science, when she received a traumatic brain injury that profoundly affected her memory following a collision with a car.

While others may have seen that as the end of a dream, Sabrina saw this as the start of a new one and accepted a position as Disabilities Resources Coordinator at the University of Red Deer. That led her to decide to pursue her doctorate in cognitive science at Carleton University. During her four years as a doctoral student, Sabrina received many scholarships and fellowships. Her area of research, mathematical cognition – investigating how the home math environment and language play a role in learning math – has led to 17 published papers and attendance at nearly 30 conferences.

Sabrina has taught undergrad courses at Carleton, and co-supervised research projects for undergraduate students. For this work, she was awarded Carleton University’s Department of Psychology’s Teaching Assistant Excellence Award, the Cognitive Science Teaching Excellence Award, and recognition from many other distinguished national organizations. At her graduation last year, Sabrina received Carleton University’s Senate Medal for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

Sabrina is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at UBC where her research, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves using neuroimaging techniques to identify markers of school readiness among infants and children in developing nations.

Dan Giancola, Denis Morris Catholic High School, Class of 1988

Dan Giancola attended Monsignor Clancy Catholic Elementary School and Denis Morris Catholic High School, graduating in 1988.

Dan Giancola
Dan Giancola

A retired CFL player, Dan was Rookie of the Year, Canadian Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year in 1999, his year with the Toronto Argonauts. A year later he was signed by the Buffalo Bills, but played with the BC Lions instead, winning the Grey Cup. Throughout his career, he played with five teams (Argos twice, Ottawa Renegades, Montreal Alouettes, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and was part of two Grey Cup-winning teams (Lions and Argos).

Dan has been generous with his time and financial resources, helping to raise thousands of dollars throughout his career for Sick Kids Hospital. He has also supported the Special Olympics and now has his own organization, Give the Boot to … which has raised more than $125,000 to date for a number of causes, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Bullying, Mental Illness and, most recently, cardiovascular disease. He is a recipient of a Canada 150 Award, received the key to the City of Thorold, is on the city’s Sports Wall of Fame, and is also on Denis Morris Catholic High School’s Hall of Fame. He also supports a number of local organizations such as Heater’s Heroes, the RAFT, and the GROW food literacy program. Most recently, he supported the donation of hundreds of anti-bullying books to schools.

Post-retirement, Dan turned his attention to personal training and owns BTO Performance in Thorold, where he helps people achieve their fitness goals. He is also an active motivational speaker.

April Mullen, Saint Paul Catholic High School, Class of 2000

Actress. Activist. Director. Producer. Each of these words describes April Mullen.

April Mullen
April Mullen

April cares deeply about a number of causes, from the environment to creating. She is described as versatile and passionate about her craft and has been honoured for her contributions to the film community.

As an actress, she moves seamlessly between comedy, drama, and thrillers. As a director, April is known for her bold and stunning visuals and for her ambitious shooting style. She has been nominated for Best Leading Artist in the Young Artists Awards, has received the Tiff Burk Diamond for Women in Film, and is the first woman to direct a live-action, stereoscopic 3D feature film.

Of mixed heritage, April is proud of both her Catholic and her Anishinaabe roots. She has a strong connection to both and remains very close ties with Saint Paul Catholic High School. April is described as both humble and kind and is always ready to help when asked.

Menaka Swampillai-Evans, Notre Dame College School, Class of 1991

Menaka Swampillai-Evans was active throughout her years at Notre Dame College School as both a cheerleader and on student council. She became a chartered accountant in 1998 and quickly turned her co-op placement at Price Waterhouse Cooper into a full-time role as an associate.

Menaka Swampillai-Evans
Menaka Swampillai-Evans

She moved to California to pursue her dreams, working as a Senior Financial Analyst at Disney. From there, she found increasingly senior roles within Disney, ABC and LiveNation. She began her own back-house accounting firm providing financial strategies to Hollywood clients before returning to ABC as Head of Finance and Business Planning.

Menaka is generous with her time and resources, supporting several charitable causes including travelling to Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami to help build houses, and Notre Dame’s Annual Pilgrimage.

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