Giving her heart & soul to students

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

  • Darci Smith-  teacher, Archangel Gabriel Catholic School
  • Mallory Gurney- teacher, Blessed Francis Seelos Academy
  • JoLynn Clouse- principal, Saint Wendelin 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.

Golden Apple Award Winner: Darci Smith

School/position: Archangel Gabriel School, teacher

Quote: “Teaching is not a job, but a calling.”

Darci Smith remembers how she felt when she would spot the prestigious Golden Apple award in a classroom.

“Whenever I saw a Golden Apple on a teacher’s desk, I would think, wow, that says a lot about that teacher. I always wanted to be like them,” she said.

“To receive this honor after more than 21 years in education is just so overwhelming. I put my heart and soul into my students and classroom.”

The middle school teacher at Archangel Gabriel Catholic School in Robinson is one of seven educators recognized this year for excellence in the classroom, church and community.

Parents and fellow teachers were astonished when Smith took the initiative to find the funds to buy 102 iPads for 6th, 7th and 8th graders. She reached out to every strong supporter of Catholic education she knew, and within two months had raised nearly $50,000.

“When I approached her about her efforts,” parent Nicole Crofford wrote in her nominating letter, “she simply stated, ‘I prayed for the Holy Spirit to work through me, and all the credit goes to God.’”

“As current PTG President,” wrote Leslie Williams, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mrs. Smith as she created outreach projects. She is a shining example of a teacher who is most certainly ‘Lighting the Way’ for her students.”

“Darci expects the best from her students because she expects the best from herself,” wrote principal Cathy Militzer. “She is a faith-filled role model and excellent teacher.”

Born and raised in McDonald, PA, Smith earned a Bachelor of Psychology from Bethany College, then a Masters in Education from Duquesne University. She began her teaching career at Saint Agatha School in Bridgeville. After a move to Georgia, she returned to the Pittsburgh area to teach at Saint Joseph School, then Holy Trinity, which became Archangel Gabriel following a merger.

Smith is a member of the school’s faith formation committee, and coordinates service projects to the Coraopolis Food Pantry, Merakey Allegheny Valley School and Jubilee Soup Kitchen. She also serves as middle school forensic moderator, Beaver Honor League coordinator, and organizes puppet shows, the annual eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C., and the eighth grade graduation.

“Teaching is not a job, but a calling where I am able to help my students with their academics while fostering their relationship with God and faith,” she said. “I watch them blossom into young, well-rounded adults rooted in their faith.”