Celebrating Excellence 2024

2024 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENTS 

Matty Matheson, Lakeshore Catholic High School, Class of 2001

Matty Matheson

Emmy and Golden-Globe-Award-winning actor, New York Times best-selling-author and celebrity chef, Matty Matheson may be on top of the world today, but it was a big climb to the top.

In a world where celebrities are expected to conform to a specific mold, Matty is unabashedly himself. A passerby might not know that the man clad in workwear and a vintage t-shirt, with messy hair and tattoos everywhere is a wildly successful entrepreneur, producer, and philanthropist.

During the pandemic, Matty returned to his roots in Fort Erie, opening a pop-up take-out restaurant, Matty Matheson’s Meat + Three, as a way to keep busy, offer people in Fort Erie a different food option than what was usually available and to give back to the community. Closing as the pandemic wave retreated, the restaurant was able to raise and donate more than $6,000 to Women’s Place of South Niagara. Rizzo’s House of Parm also recently gave back to the Fort Erie/Niagara community again having a free spaghetti day at the restaurant in Crystal Beach, for anyone who wanted to stop by for the take-out meal. He also created an organic, regenerative farm, Blue Goose Farm, in Ridgeway that supplies his restaurants and others in Toronto. Another project with Blue Goose Farm is planned for Ridgeway later this year. Matty takes joy in highlighting the places he came from, where he gleaned his skills; he’s inspired others to dream big, and to believe that big things can come out of growing up in a small town. Other businesses he’s launched, Matheson Cookware, Matheson Food Company, and Rosa Rugosa, are a testament to this belief.

Matty also established the Matty Matheson Culinary and Hospitality Bursary, awarded annually to Indigenous students in post-secondary institutions. “With this bursary, I hope to aid in building character and self-esteem; I want to help anyone I can to pursue their dreams through culinary education and their love of food,” he said.

Currently, Matty Matheson owns restaurants in Toronto and Niagara and is a producer and actor on the popular FX television show The Bear.

For his commitment to overcoming adversity, his multiple areas of success, and for his commitment to giving back to others, we are proud to honour Matty Matheson with a Niagara Catholic Distinguished Alumni Award.

 

Andrea Wehlann, Lakeshore Catholic High School, Class of 1993

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo,
Andrea Wehlann and Director of Education,
Camillo Cipriano

Andrea Wehlann believes in the healing power of faith, silence, and prayer.

As a yoga practitioner and owner of Ganga Moon Yoga Studio and the Reiki Skool in Beamsville, she encourages her students to support themselves in mind, body, and spirit.

Andrea has helped many people reach their physical and mental best through her studio and through three books written in the past three years.

Her first book, No Matter How Dark the Stain, Poems and Inspiration for the Woman in Pain, was published in 2021. This book was a collection of poetry to inspire, heal, and uplift women through all stages of life.

In 2022, Andrea published Deeper Days: 365 Yoga-spirations for Inner Calm Amidst Chaos, became an Amazon Number One best-seller in the category of yoga and won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and two Firebird Book Awards in the Mind, Body, and Spirit category. It also won a Firebook Book Award in the Inspirational category.

Last August, Andrea published Stillness in the Storm: A Conscious Daily Journal of Yoga and Spiritual Healing. This book also became an Amazon Number One best seller in yoga, and number five in mental health. For her commitment to uplifting women and all those in need of inspiration and encouragement, we are proud to honour Andrea Wehlann with a Niagara Catholic Distinguished Alumni Award.

 

Niagara Catholic Inspiration Awards Biographies

 

David Antolin, Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, David Antolin and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

David Antolin has been an integral part of Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School for 26 years. The foundation for his career came from working in landscape architecture and design, and he translated that knowledge into a position as a Technological Design and Construction teacher at Blessed Trinity. David is known for his infectious enthusiasm for the field and has inspired many students to pursue careers in landscape, architecture, engineering, construction, and interior design. He also ensures that he stays current on new technologies, so he is confident he is teaching students the most current best practices. By modelling lifelong learning, David inspires his students to continue to explore, learn and grow as well.

Outside the classroom, David is an active participant in Blessed Trinity’s music program. He emcees many shows and is ready to help as a music supervisor at festivals and other competitions. He willingly transports music equipment then makes sure each piece is in tip-top condition and gleaming for students to play. As if that isn’t enough, David always has his camera on hand, ensuring there are plenty of photos and videos of the BT band or choir, yearly graduations, sports, and other school activities, which are used for social media and yearbooks.

David is also generous with his time as a volleyball coach. His knowledge and love of the sport helped inspire many young players and is always willing to help students play at a higher level. Through his teaching, coaching, and supportive roles, David exemplifies servant-leadership and shows students that giving of yourself builds character and community. We are proud to present David Antolin with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

 

Babette Bailey, Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Babette Bailey and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Babette Bailey has worked with Niagara Catholic students who are deaf or hard of hearing for more than 20 years. She truly has a student-first mindset in all she does, looking at the student as a whole, beyond their disability.

Her compassion, empathy, and endless grace when working with students, parents, and the community are nothing short of remarkable. She goes above and beyond in all that she does to ensure that students have all the supports they need. Babette is a collaborator, always ready to work with teachers, principals, and other support staff to ensure that each student’s unique needs are fulfilled, treating each one with dignity. She is always ready to learn new things and to share information with colleagues for the best interest of the students we serve. Babette worked through personal challenges, guided by her faith to persevere, and every day she makes a difference in the lives of those she encounters.

We are proud to present Babette Bailey with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Julio Candeloro, Saint Paul Catholic High School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Julio Candeloro and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Julio Candeloro began his teaching career at Niagara Catholic in 1998. He spent his first 14 years at Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School where he was a science teacher and department head, before moving on to Saint Paul Catholic High School in 2012. Julio is a passionate teacher and coach, eager to share his love of learning and sports with everyone. He began coaching Timbits soccer while in university and has since coached many high school and community teams. In addition to soccer, Julio has served as trainer and assistant coach for the Niagara Falls Flyers hockey team and coached many different high school sports over the years, including football, badminton, baseball, and volleyball. He also helped organize a ski team at Saint Francis and played a pivotal role in introducing high school squash teams to the Niagara region. In his capacity as coach at both Saint Francis and Saint Paul, Julio led many teams and players to district and provincial tournaments, including Zone, SOSSA, and OFSAA. He was also involved in other school events, such as Pilgrimage.

At Saint Paul, Julio shifted his career path to work as a guidance counsellor and Program Chair of Student Support Services for three years. He returned to the classroom to teach English in 2018 and has come full-circle, teaching science again. Julio’s nominators describe him as “the epitome of a true servant-leader,” putting his faith into action in all that he does. He is a “true team player, respected by his peers,” who puts character development at the forefront of all he does. He is credited with finding ways to make connections with students and creating an environment where students would thrive. “Julio’s innovative coaching methods and extraordinary contributions to Niagara Catholic are evident in his ability to inspire excellence and foster a culture of continuous improvement. … “(His) leadership extends beyond sports, as he serves as a mentor and role model, guiding students to become compassionate, resilient, and principled individuals.” We are proud to present Julio Candeloro with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Pina Griepsma, Lakeshore Catholic High School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Pina Griepsma and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Pina Griepsma joined Niagara Catholic in 1992 and has been on staff at Lakeshore Catholic High School since 1994.

Currently the Program Chair of Student Services, Pina has been a classroom teacher, special education teacher, student success teacher, guidance counsellor, teacher mentor, coach, and student mentor. She has been instrumental in leading students on their post-secondary journeys, wherever that may be. Pina’s personalized approach to student support and her genuine care and encouragement empowered students to reach their full potential. She goes above and beyond to ensure every student feels valued, supported, and equipped with the skills they need to thrive, looking at students far beyond the now into what they can be.

We are proud to present Pina Griepsma with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Patricia Morgetano, Denis Morris Catholic High School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Patricia Morgetano and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

In a weekly audience, Pope Francis once said, “Witness, therefore, cannot be separated from consistency between what one believes, what one proclaims, and how one lives.” This describes Denis Morris Catholic High School Chaplaincy Lead Patricia Morgetano. Patricia joined Niagara Catholic in 2014 as a casual employee. She has been a Chaplaincy Leader since 2016 at both Denis Morris Catholic High School and Saint Paul Catholic High School. Her colleagues describe her as a “consummate professional” who goes above and beyond to enhance the faith life at the school.

Patricia leads by example. Her caring and compassion is extended to all students, and she has a particular instinct on how to support those in need. She has helped students through their grief, advocated on behalf of students to help them find part-time jobs and ensured students had food to eat, treating all with dignity and compassion. Due to her caring nature, students being baptized or confirmed into the Church have asked Patricia to be their godparents and confirmation sponsors. All this is done around coordinating Masses, reconciliation, Advent, Lent, and other faith events such as Pilgrimage at the school. We are proud to present Patricia Morgetano with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Joshua Oort, Lakeshore Catholic High School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Joshua Oort and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Joshua Oort joined the Niagara Catholic family in 2003. He has been on staff at Lakeshore Catholic High School for the past eight years. As a special education teacher, Joshua works tirelessly with students, as a teacher and an advocate. Knowing that it is easy for people with challenges to fall through the cracks once they leave the school environment, Joshua works to ensure that students and their families have support in navigating what can often be a complicated social services system. He brings joy and life to his students and strives to make every day special and meaningful for everyone around him.

We are proud to present Joshua Oort with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Anja Pavela, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School, Grimsby

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Anja Pavela and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Anja Pavela has been an educational assistant at Niagara Catholic for 20-plus years; more than 15 of them at Our Lady of Fatima in Grimsby. Anja’s dedication to Catholic education extends beyond the call of duty. She has left an indelible mark on her students and the Our Lady of Fatima community throughout her years there. She is described by her nominators as compassionate, patient, and committed to creating a nurturing environment where all students feel valued and supported. Anja’s belief in the dignity of all people has created a culture of positivity and inclusivity at Our Lady of Fatima.

Anja’s faith life is active outside of the school community. She volunteers for many community organizations, including Out of the Cold, truly putting her faith into action for the good of her community. An active member of the Croatian Catholic Church, she spends many hours fundraising, organizing social events, and supporting parishioners on their faith journeys. Anja ensures that our Catholic faith and prayers are an integral part of the classroom. Her impact is not only notable; it is inspirational. We are proud to present Anja Pavela with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Anthony Sacco, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Anthony Sacco and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Anthony Sacco began his teaching career at Niagara Catholic in 1998. Over the past 26 years, he has served at four schools: the former St. Thomas More Catholic Elementary School, the former St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School (NF), and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Elementary School, all in Niagara Falls, before moving to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary as vice-principal in 2022. Anthony is described by his nominators as a “wonderful human,” whose open-door policy was extended to students and staff alike. His calm, approachable demeanor fosters an environment where all are welcome, and his leadership style creates welcoming spaces where everyone felt heard and valued. Anthony guides with a gentle hand, which is often reached out in support of others. He listens without judging and seeks to find the positive in a situation, allowing people to learn and grow from mistakes. His grace, confidence, empathy, and humble leadership exemplify Catholic values.

Anthony continues his journey toward principalship with grace. As he continues his educational journey, he encourages others to do the same, so they may also achieve their personal goals. We are proud to present Anthony Sacco with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Rachael Schroeder, St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Rachael Schroeder and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Rachael Schroeder joined Niagara Catholic 20 years ago and has spent half of her time at St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School. She is described by colleagues as an exceptional educational assistant who has a true passion for helping her students. From the moment she enters the school, Rachael is planning for the day, preparing snacks, and ensuring everyone who enters the building has a full tummy and is able to concentrate on learning.

She is a kind, loving adult entirely committed to the academic excellence of every student she supports. She is firm but gentle and is willing to communicate with students on their own level. She listens not only for what a child is saying, but what isn’t being said. Rachael is one of the first faces occasional staff see when they arrive at St. Christopher, and she ensures everyone is met with a friendly smile and welcome. She is an active member of school committees and brings her best to her students and colleagues every day.
We are proud to present Rachael Schroeder with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Aldo Seca, Saint Paul Catholic High School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Aldo Seca and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Aldo Seca has been a teacher with Niagara Catholic for 25 years – all of them at Saint Paul Catholic High School.

His nominators describe him as funny, passionate, loyal, dedicated, and an outstanding soccer coach. An effective math teacher and coach, Aldo is known for his guidance, support, openness, and willingness to embrace new challenges. He is an absolute cheerleader for Saint Paul Catholic High School and shares good news about the school to everyone who will listen. He speaks from the heart and with conviction to everyone and finds the good in everything. Aldo has been active in the life of Saint Paul Catholic High School since his first day. He is a moderator for Saint Paul Student Council and encourages students to become involved to get the most out of their high school years.

Aldo is an outstanding coach. From 1999-2004 he coached football and has coached both girls’ and boys’ soccer for 25 years, leading both Patriots teams to SOSSA and OFSAA victories. His experience, commitment, and love of the beautiful game has been passed along to many students throughout Aldo’s teaching and coaching career. He inspires excellence in his players, and expects them to support fellow student-athletes in other sports in the spirit of camaraderie. We are proud to present Aldo Seca with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Jaime Taylor, St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Jamie Taylor and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Jaime Taylor has been a teacher with Niagara Catholic, spending much of her career at St. Christopher Catholic Elementary School. Her colleagues describe her as kind, caring, and empathetic, making connections with the students in her classroom, encouraging them to reach their personal best. She has a natural rapport with people and is often seen walking hand-in-hand with students at lunchtime and recesses, talking about their feelings and the things happening in their lives. Jaime is an active member of the St. Christopher community, welcoming and mentoring new teachers and teacher-candidates and embraces lifelong learning. We are proud to present Jaime Taylor with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Kerri Tropea, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Kerri Tropea and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Kerri Tropea began her career at the Niagara Catholic District School Board 27 years ago as an Educational Assistant. Upon realizing that teaching was her true vocation, she returned to school to get her university and then teaching degree. She has been at St. Charles/Our Lady of the Holy Rosary for 17 of her 27 years at the board and is an integral part of the school community. She is passionate, knowledgeable, creative, enthusiastic, and kind. Kerri is involved in many events at the school and often spends her own time organizing activities such as intramural sports, coaching the junior basketball and volleyball teams and other activities for students, including organizing the Primary Christmas celebration for families. As the Primary Lead Teacher and the Grade 3 Lead, Kerri works with the principal and other staff to find innovative ways to teach the curriculum. She was an active member of the Holy Rosary Blessing Committee and organizes the Holy Childhood Prayer Service and Walk-a-thon yearly. For staff, Kerri organizes monthly luncheons, Christmas parties, retirements, year-end gatherings and other staff team bonding activities. We are proud to present Kerri Tropea with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Melissa Wigglesworth, St. Mary Catholic Elementary School, Welland

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Melissa Wigglesworth and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Melissa Wigglesworth has been with the Niagara Catholic District School Board for 30 years and has spent the past 18 years at St. Mary Catholic Elementary School in Welland. A dedicated kindergarten and primary teacher, Melissa exudes joy which spreads to the students of St. Mary. A qualified religion and math specialist, Melissa is always willing to share her knowledge with her colleagues and students. Melissa was instrumental in bringing the UFLI reading program to St. Mary. It has since become a common practice at Niagara Catholic.

She is one of two teacher leads on St. Mary’s God Squad, which guides students to be faithful leaders in our school. She motivates her students to be the best they can be, and parents actively seek her out to be their child’s teacher. Melissa is a loving, faithful example of servant-leadership in all that she does and in every interaction with colleagues, parents, and students. We are proud to present Melissa Wigglesworth with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

 

Christopher Zanuttini, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Elemtary School

Chair of the Board, Danny Di Lorenzo, Chris Zanuttini and Director of Education, Camillo Cipriano

Chris Zanuttini has been part of the Niagara Catholic District School Board for 27 years. He has served at seven schools during his tenure, as a classroom teacher, ERT, vice-principal, and principal. He was principal of St. Charles Catholic Elementary School for its final year (2021-2022) and has been principal of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School since St. Charles and Monsignor Clancy were amalgamated into Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in 2022. Chris is a respected member of the Niagara Catholic community. He is described by his nominators as a catalyst for change, shepherding two school communities through periods of great change: The closure of the former St. Martin Catholic Elementary School in Smithville and the opening of the new St. Martin, and the amalgamation of St. Charles and Monsignor Clancy into Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

Chris took painstaking care to ensure that each of these schools were filled with art that represented the school and the faith community, creating cultures of faith and inclusivity. He listens to hear, not just to respond. Chris often recalls conversations with staff, students, and parents and follows up with them. He knows the name of all 800 staff and students in his building and is always willing to stop what he’s doing when he sees a person in need. Despite having a busy building, Chris dedicates time after school hours to run the Niagara Catholic Leadership Program, which supports Niagara Catholic staff in growing their careers, and recognizes every person in his school as valued members of his school community. Chris is an example of a lifelong learner, dedicated to learning more so he can continue to offer excellence in education to students, ensuring they are ready for the next grade. We are proud to present Christopher Zanuttini with a 2024 Inspiration Award.

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