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 Tuesday, May 2 at the Brock University, 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 2022-2023 school year, Niagara Catholic is pleased to recognize the following individuals:

CATCH THE SPIRIT STUDENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School Family of Schools

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School Carla Shaheen
St. Edward Catholic Elementary School Helena Lindley
St. John Catholic Elementary School Prada Toffolon
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School Jakub Kowalski
St. Mark Catholic Elementary School Adrian Ferro
St. Martin Catholic Elementary School Hazelle LeBlanc
Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School Olivia Magnini

Denis Morris Catholic High School Family of Schools

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School Julia Palmerino
St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School Alex Forrest
St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School Chelsea Vanderlaan
St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School Khloe Pirrie
St. Peter Catholic Elementary School Lochlan Cahill
St. Theresa Catholic Elementary School Aizen Cruz
Denis Morris Catholic High School Adaeze Uwaneme

Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Family of Schools

Assumption Catholic Elementary School Mattea Gandola
Canadian Martyrs Catholic Elementary School Momoririoluwa d’Almeida
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School Valentina Pace
St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School Roberto Perez
St. Michael Catholic Elementary School Maya Hubbard
Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Kiara Tafur Chacon

Lakeshore Catholic High School Family of Schools

Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School Kayla Mullin
St. Elizabeth Catholic Elementary School Paetynn Zayac
St. George Catholic Elementary School Morgan Stewart
St. John Bosco Catholic Elementary School Colton Detlor
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School Alyssa Poulin
St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School Eleanora Schroeder
St. Philomena Catholic Elementary School Natalie Van Koughnett
St. Therese Catholic Elementary School Lincon Frey
Lakeshore Catholic High School Sierra Walsh-Fiore

Notre Dame College School Family of Schools

Alexander Kuska Catholic Elementary School Leila Hominuk
Holy Name Catholic Elementary School Emilia Gotfryd
St. Alexander Catholic Elementary School Alexander Kuczera
St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School Mason Richard
St. Ann Catholic Elementary School Annabelle Scott
St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School Maddison Anderson
St. Kevin Catholic Elementary School Madelyn Leonor Ayala
St. Mary Catholic Elementary School Chase Belair
Notre Dame College School Ava Boyer

Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School Family of Schools

St. Ann Catholic Elementary School Mateo Labrovic
St. Denis Catholic Elementary School Carter Patterson
St. James Catholic Elementary School Ruby Sroka
St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School Andre Bilodeau
Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School Anika Smith

Saint Michael Catholic High School Family of Schools

Father Hennepin Catholic Elementary School Violet Zylstra
Loretto Catholic Elementary School Tanya Joseph
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School Yzabela Basinang-Mariano
Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School Celina Maalouf
Saint Michael Catholic High School Patrick Abbott

Saint Paul Catholic High School Family of Schools

Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School Joseph Ambrosia-Dulnuan
Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School Sofie Maiuri
St. Gabriel Lalemant Catholic Elementary School Ashlynn Thompson
St. John Henry Newman Catholic Elementary School Jessiah Bowyer
St. Mary Catholic Elementary School Madison Crocker
St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School Marigold Hunt
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School Sofia Sirianni
Saint Paul Catholic High School Mackenzie Agretto

Other Sites

Continuing Education Diana Constanza Jaramillo Sanchez
Niagara Catholic Virtual Elementary School Mary-Kate Gleeson
Pope Francis Centre Rocco Di Fruscio
Saint Kateri Catholic Elementary School Joseph Laford Jr.
Saint Kateri Catholic Secondary School Alistor Hands-Bare

 

 2023 INSPIRATION AWARD RECIPIENTS

 

Antonio (Anthony) Cardamone, Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School

Anthony Cardamone has spent nearly 30 years in the vocation of Catholic education, as a teacher, vice-principal, and principal. Much of that time has been devoted to bringing out the excellence in others.

With his students, Anthony encourages students in many ways, and he is never too busy to hear about the previous night’s hockey game or to sit down with a child in need of a quiet companion.

As one of the staff leaders for the Elementary Student Senate, Anthony supports student voice and encourages students to share their vision for Niagara Catholic.

As an administrator, Anthony trusts his staff to lead from where they are and encourages all staff in his building to find the role that is important to them. He is gracious and generous in his praise of others and knows when to challenge others to dig deeper to encourage personal and professional growth.

And as a leader who supports the LIP program, Anthony is a mentor to aspiring administrators, actively demonstrating the importance of building relationships with others to help them on their leadership journey.

He sees each person’s worth and recognizes that everyone brings something of value to help the school community run successfully.

 

Antonietta Garofalo, St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School

Antonietta Garofalo has spent 25 years as a classroom teacher – all of them at St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School.

While she is passionate about all grades, her passion is for teaching Grade 2, supporting students as they reach the importance milestones in our faith of first Reconciliation and first Communion.

Such is Antonietta’s commitment that over her time as a teacher, more than 20 families of non-Catholic students joined the Church as their children prepared for the sacraments. She has been a baptismal sponsor, Communion sponsor and an advocate for families entering into the Catholic faith.

Toni’s connection to the Church runs deep, and she is always willing to give her time to support the triad of home-school-parish. As a eucharistic minister and reader, an active parishioner and a member of the Catholic Women's League, Toni supports the parish in many ways, through cooking for the annual golf tournament, to organizing bazaars to support the parish and by running the summer Vacation Bible School weekly camp.

She looks for ways to draw students and families closer to Christ and is a strong advocate for our Catholic faith.

 

Melissa Heil, St. Augustine Catholic Elementary School

Melissa Heil has been employed by Niagara Catholic for 32 years, and on staff at St. Augustine for 25 of them. Over the years she has taught multiple generations within families.

She is described by her nominators as “the perfect combination of teacher, caregiver, supporter and champion for all.”

Melissa is an avid cheerleader for the school, making sure every visitor through the doors is welcomed and knows what an amazing place it is.

She takes the time to talk students through their challenges and has a way of being upbeat in even the most difficult situations.

 

 

Ann King, St. Ann Catholic Elementary School (St. Catharines) and St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School

“It is an awfully sad misconception that librarians simply check books in and out. The library is the heart of the school, and without a librarian, it is but an empty shell.”

This quote, by children’s author Jarrett J. Krosoczka, sums up Ann King. She is a force in the schools she supports; reading with students, helping staff members, and redesigning the library to make space for primary students. She also participates in vendor fairs to choose the perfect books for the school.

Ann pulls books to use on special displays and makes sure the school has the resources students need. She is an expert at reading aloud to students, who hang on her every word. Without realizing it, they are learning to enunciate and read with expression, and gaining confidence to read out loud themselves. Students love that she makes it a point to know their names and chooses books that they enjoy.

Beyond the four walls of the library, Ann can be found helping students with their coats and boots. She also supports her colleagues in every way and is a mentor to those learning the job.

 

Colin McLeod, Saint Paul Catholic High School

Colin McLeod has been a math teacher at Saint Paul Catholic High School for his entire 36-year teaching career.

Colleagues define him as compassionate, kind, patient, and optimistic. Hard-working, committed, profession and genuine. Humble, funny, intelligent, and deeply rooted in faith.

He has a unique gift to make learning fun and is committed to building an inclusive, fun, and positive atmosphere not only in his classroom, but throughout the school. He prepares students for the Waterloo Math Contest and has been involved in different school activities such as on the graduation committee for many years.

An active basketball coach, Colin has coached the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Saint Paul for his entire career, and in 2022 was awarded the OFSAA Leadership in School Sport Award for exemplifying the values of fair play and being good sports on and off the court, rink, or field.

 

Cathy McMullin, Catholic Education Centre/St. Mary Catholic Elementary School Welland

Cathy McMullin has been a part of Niagara Catholic’s Special Education team for 25 years, 20 of them based centrally at the CEC.

She began her career as an Education Assistant, then transitioned into the role of Special Needs Facilitator, and then the Board’s first leader of the Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) team. She is now an ABA Lead.

Cathy has been an advocate for ABA in our schools, and facilitates after-school programs, summer camps, and professional development sessions. She implements targeted ABA interventions in schools and connects families with resources available to them in the community.

Cathy is a “go-to” person not only because of her wealth of knowledge but also for her kind heart. She listens, validates, and offers guidance, creating authentic relationships with students, colleagues, and community partners.

As a mentor, Cathy is beloved by those staff entrusted to her supervision, and she goes out of her way to ensure that those she leads feel validated.

A member of the Board’s Accessibility Committee, Cathy has been a driving force in supporting a sense of belonging and inclusivity. This year, Cathy was instrumental in leading the creation of an elementary student conference focused on accessibility, to support students in being leaders and advocates in their school communities. This event, and a similar one for parents, was a memorable learning experience for everyone.

 

Christopher Moscato, Alexander Kuska Catholic Elementary School

Chris Moscato has been a part of the Niagara Catholic family for 20 years, and principal of Alexander Kuska Catholic Elementary School since 2020.

Chris is well-versed in all subject areas and makes himself available to staff and families about student success and achievement. Leading by example, he is always willing to take courses and other professional development opportunities and encourages others to do the same.

Chris is personally invested in the mental health and well-being of his staff, going the extra mile during the pandemic to deliver care packages to staff at their homes.

He also develops outstanding rapports with his students, taking the time to get to know them and best understand their learning needs.

 

Denice Robertson, Lakeshore Catholic High School

Denice Robertson has been a member of the Niagara Catholic family for 30 years, as a teacher, vice-principal, and principal.

She is a yes person in the best possible definition of the term, choosing to accept new challenges and opportunities throughout her career. When Denice accepted her administrative positions, she was one of only a few women holding such roles in the secondary panel. By saying yes to those opportunities, she inspired other women to welcome the tap on the shoulder to consider similar roles.

With students Denice is compassionate but fair, shaping students to become the best version of themselves. She encourages staff to also be their best by mentoring and new teachers and administrators.

Denice is collaborative, inclusive, and enthusiastic, always looking to find and bring out the best in everyone.

 

Josephina Sampson, Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School

Josie Sampson has been with Niagara Catholic for 22 years, all of them at Blessed Trinity.

The school’s secretary with financial duties, Josie manages her job with meticulous detail. As a member of the greater school community, she promotes the spiritual, emotional, and physical growth of those around her. She comforts, directs, and acknowledges the potential of those around her, and sees the goodness in everyone. She accepts others without judgement and understands the complexities of each individual.

As a coach, Josie exemplifies patience, knowledge, and passion for sports. She is more than a coach for many of her players – she is a mentor and, occasionally a surrogate mother to students who need it. She encourages students to look for their hidden skills and molds students into being the best they can be in every way.

Josie is a person of faith and actively supports the faith life at Blessed Trinity. She is humble about her contributions, doing all that she does without looking for accolades because she always knows that the whole is greater than its individual parts.

When her team shines, Josie shines.

 

Megan Schweitzer, Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School

Megan Schweitzer has been a part of the Niagara Catholic family for 17 years, seven of them at Blessed Trinity.

A committed Catholic educator, Megan brings her skills and knowledge to life in the classroom and on the gym floor. As a past member of Canada’s women’s National wrestling team, Megan brings a competitive spirit and special understanding of the importance of always trying your best to everything she does. That has impacted countless students on her teams and in her classes.

Megan is particularly involved with Truth and Reconciliation as the school’s Indigenous Champion. She is involved in the school’s annual Red Dress campaign and continues to lead and support this and other Truth and Reconciliation initiatives at the school and in the community.

Megan is a visible teacher who puts her students first in all she does.

 

Bernie Tessier, Lakeshore Catholic High School

Bernie Tessier has been a part of the Niagara Catholic family for 24 years, 15 of them at Lakeshore Catholic High School.

Every day, he strives to make Lakeshore Catholic better than it was the day before through his positive presence which is felt and appreciated by his students and colleagues.

Bernie’s ability to integrate faith into all aspects of teaching and the co-curriculars he coaches sets a standard for others to follow, and he serves as a mentor to new teachers. He works to bring out the best in the students he teaches and those he coaches, so they can discover their calling.

Bernie leads by example, exemplifying the Catholic Graduate Expectations. As a life-long learner, he attends professional development and coaching clinics to ensure his students are learning current information and best practices.

Bernie holds a special place in his heart for students in the school who are most in need and strives to ensure that students who learn differently receive the teaching they need with dignity and compassion.

 

2023 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENTS

Mikolaj Debowski

St. John Catholic Elementary School (Beamsville)

Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School, Class of 2008

Music has always been a part of trombonist Mikolaj Debowski’s life. He was an active member of the Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School band, under the instruction of teacher Angela Maccaroni.

After graduating from Blessed Trinity, Mikolaj attended McGill University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music performance in 2012. That year, he was accepted into the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto and received an Artist Diploma in trombone performance in 2014.

A short time after winning third prize in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra competition, Mikolaj successfully auditioned for a regular forces position in the Canadian Air Force as a musician in 2017. He has performed across Canada in both a solo and orchestral setting, including at Koerner Hall, as a soloist in the 21C Festival, and twice on tour with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Prior to joining the Canadian Air Force Band, he was a regular substitute with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, a founding member of the Shaw Street Collective, and played with the Thunder Bay Symphony and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Faith is also an important part of Mikolaj’s life. After graduating from university, his participated in a week-long pilgrimage in Poland, walking 150 kilometres from Krakow to Czestochowa, which was formative in his faith journey and has kept him driven to participate in church life wherever he goes.

During his time in the RCAF Band, Mikolaj travelled to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and was awarded the RCAF Commander’s Commendation for his service and dedication to the Air Force.

Mikolaj lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two children. In his spare time, he enjoys collecting and restoring vintage espresso machines.

 

Danielle Sirianni Molnar

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School

Saint Michael Catholic High School, Class of 1995

 Dr. Danielle Sirianni Molnar is a living embodiment of the Catholic Graduate Expectations.

Following her graduation from Saint Michael Catholic High School in 1995, Danielle obtained multiple degrees in psychology, and received national graduate scholarships while completing her MA and PhD, and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Today, she is an Associate Professor in Brock University’s Child and Youth Studies program and holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Adjustment and Well-Being in Children in Youth.

As a highly successful educator, Danielle reflects the Catholic Graduate Expectations:

  • A Discerning Believer, through her foundational beliefs, including the conviction that life is an unearned gift to be challenged and appreciated by finding and fulfilling one’s purpose in life.
  • A Caring Family Member, as a loving wife and mother of two Niagara Catholic students.
  • An Effective Communicator and Collaborative Contributor, through her many research articles written so all readers can understand.
  • A Self-directed, Life-long learner, through her willingness to embrace change and learn new approaches.
  • A Reflective, Creative, and Holistic Thinker, through her solution-oriented approach to things and willingness to context and the best approach.
  • A Responsible Citizen, through the way she models how to act morally, legally, and with the utmost integrity to her children and the students she mentors.

Danielle focuses on ethical considerations and being accountable for one’s own actions and exemplifies that a solid foundation in faith-infused education can set an individual on a path to success.

 

Erica Blythe (Van de Laar)

Michael J. Brennan Catholic Elementary School

St. Ann Catholic Elementary School

Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School, Class of 2011

Erica Blythe (Van de Laar) is a role model for Catholic education. It’s a path she began in elementary school and has continued throughout her secondary and post-secondary education, and into her career in law.

As an active leader at Star of the Sea parish and through her involvement with Development and Peace, Erica received the Cardinal Thomas C. Collins Scholarship for Catholic Student Leadership – with her full tuition covered – to King’s University College at Western University. While there, she continued to foster Catholic leadership in education and the community, taking on the leadership role of Head Resident Assistant while maintaining a place on the Dean’s Academic Roll for her academic performance.

A lifelong learner, Erica completed a post-graduate degree in law from Western University and is a lawyer at Martin Sheppard Fraser in Niagara Falls.

Erica is also visually impaired and volunteers her time to educate people on her experiences as a student and adult with a visual impairment, creating empathy in those she speaks with and fostering understanding of the needs and challenges of people who are visually impaired.

Erica has been involved in the marriage preparation program at her parish and supported her husband through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), sponsoring as he joined the Catholic faith.

Erica also volunteered as a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters in the “Not Just Homework” club, providing academic and social support to students in Grades 4-8.

 

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