These 12 teachers and administrators at five local Catholic schools made up almost half of the 28 finalists for the first Arizona Council for Private American Education awards of excellence. They are: Pamela Cantu-Owen of St. Maria Goretti Preschool and Kindergarten; from Notre Dame Preparatory Tom Marr, Maribelle Salazar, Lorin Marchese and Tanya Bartlett; David Ortiz from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale; from Xavier College Preparatory Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, Gabrielle Reil, Catherine Wyman, Frances McMahon Ward, Nathan Ward and Janet Mambrino (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame).

Catholic school teachers, leaders and programs dominated the finalist list for the first Excellence in Private Education Awards. Twelve of the 28 finalists are connected to area Catholic schools.

At least one name appeared in every category. Two schools came home with the award Sept. 20. Arizona’s Council for American Private Education hosted the event.

Tanya Bartlett, a social studies teacher, accepted the Program of the Year award for Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale. She created the Legislative Action Project as part of the Honors/AP Government class. Students must identify an issue, research and write a bill and then present it to state legislators in an attempt to get it passed. Students work with interest groups, meet with legislators and develop a block of legislators who will vote for it.

Notre Dame’s other finalists included:

  • Tom Mar (theology) and Maribelle Salazar (world languages) were among six finalists up for high school Teacher of the Year. They competed alongside two Xavier teachers.
  • Lorin Marchese, administrative assistant for athletics, was among five finalists up for Staff Person of the Year. She competed alongside a St. Jerome alumni turned administrative assistant/coach and a longtime Xavier administrator.

Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, principal of Xavier College Preparatory, accepted the Staff Person of the Year award. Sr. Joan is celebrating her 50th year at the all-girls school.

Xavier’s other finalists included:

  • Frances McMahon Ward, head of technology, and Gabriele Riel, head of the science department, were among six finalists up for high school Teacher of the Year. They competed alongside two Notre Dame teachers.
  • Engineering Projects in Community Service was among five finalists for Program of the Year. See program page.

Xavier and Notre Dame tied with four finalists each. Finalists at other Catholic schools included:

  • P-3 Teacher of the Year – Pamela Cantu-Owen at St. Maria Goretti Preschool and K in Scottsdale
  • 4-8 Teacher of the Year – Sr. Maria Nnedimma Umeokwoibe and David Ortiz at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale
  • Staff Member of the Year — Deb Preach, administrative assistant at St. Jerome