Teacher goes the extra mile

Seven educators at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have received the 2021 Golden Apple Award:

  • Mallory Gurney- teacher, Blessed Francis Seelos Academy
  • JoLynn Clouse- principal, Saint Wendelin School
  • Darci Smith-  teacher, Archangel Gabriel Catholic School
  • Robert Childs- associate principal, Serra Catholic High School
  • Meloni DiPietro Guthoerl- teacher, Seton LaSalle High School
  • Emily Janocha- teacher, John F. Kennedy Catholic School
  • Lisa Radzanowski- teacher, Ave Maria Academy

The award recognizes their excellent performance in the classroom, church and community. Each educator will receive a monetary prize, thanks to the generosity of the Donahue Family Foundation.

The Pittsburgh Catholic is featuring a Golden Apple honoree each week until the start of school.

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Golden Apple Award Winner: Mallory Gurney

School/position: Blessed Francis Seelos Academy, teacher

Quote: “One of the things that sets Catholic schools apart is the bonds that you form with families.”

Kindergarten teacher Mallory Gurney was on maternity leave when the pandemic struck in March 2020, and she could not bear the thought of going even longer without seeing her students in person.

So, she gathered up the materials they would need for online learning and emailed the parents of her 22 students at Blessed Francis Seelos Academy in Wexford, asking them to dress up as superheroes to salute frontline workers in hospitals, police and fire stations and supermarkets. Then she drove to their homes in 12 different school districts to deliver miles of smiles.

“I will never forget that day,” Gurney said. “Just to see their faces lit up brought tears to my eyes.”

Said parent Julie Byrne, “This is a memory that these students and families will carry with them for a lifetime.”

Byrne nominated Gurney for the prestigious Golden Apple Award that recognizes excellence in the classroom, church and community.

“It’s been a difficult year,” Byrne wrote, “and Mrs. Gurney has not only met the challenge, but has succeeded in providing all of her students with the absolute best experience in her classroom.”

“I was very surprised to hear of the award,” Gurney said. “It’s a complete honor.”

“One of the things that sets Catholic schools apart is the bonds that you form with families,” she said. “I try to build trusting and nurturing relationships where I am able to have open communication and work together as a team.”

“It is Mrs. Gurney’s love of teaching, enthusiasm, and willingness to always go the extra mile that makes her such a special teacher,” said principal Robert Reese. “She models her faith and is helping her students to come into a closer relationship with Jesus every day.”

In her third year at Seelos and 11th year as a Catholic school teacher, Gurney earned a BS in elementary education from Thiel College and a master’s in reading and language arts at Duquesne University.

She has volunteered at the Saint Aidan Parish fish fry, Saint Alexis parish festival, and Saint Jude Children’s Hospital Math-a-thon. She also helped organize a shoe drive for a mission in Hermitage and a toy drive for children in Greenville, PA.

Kindergartner Sean Vargo created his own superhero, “Green Guy.”