Lead. Learn. Proclaim. Awards Winners 2024
Middle School Religion and Social Studies Teacher
St. Teresa School, Diocese of Belleville
Jamie Dedmon is in her 17th year as a social studies and religion teacher at St. Teresa School, her home parish. She plans events throughout the liturgical calendar, coordinating assemblies for Advent and Lent. She is the unofficial director of religious education since the position was cut from the budget and leads services in the gym when the weather turns bad. She organized the 150th birthday celebration of St. Therese. She revived the prayer club, welcoming K-8 students to pray after school. In her religion classes, she encourages students to journal about their faith, to use the Bible weekly and to learn about the saints. Her classroom can be silent with mediation, conversational with debates or boisterous with celebration. Ms. Dedmon is the leader of the National Junior Honors Society for middle school students and serves on the Religion Curriculum Committee helping choose a new resource for next school year. She has chosen religious books for staff book studies and led the conversations. She is participating in a new diocesan religious professional development called Franciscan at Home. Teachers in the diocese completed all tiers of Ms. Dedmon’s Catechist Certification. She has been a Eucharistic Minister, cantor and choir member. She is an active pro-life advocate in her community. As a fitness enthusiast, she encourages the staff to take care of their mind, body and souls. During the daily 20-minute enrichment time for middle school students, Ms. Dedmon’s students focus on self-care by meditating, doing yoga or praying in the prayer garden.
First Grade Teacher
St. Cecilia School, Archdiocese of Portland
Jill Harris has had a myriad of teaching experiences including teaching pre-kindergarten, teaching drama for grades K-8 and teaching faith formation before she was working in schools. She taught kindergarten at St. Matthew School for two years and is the current first-grade teacher at St. Cecilia School where she has been for the past three years. Ms. Harris is a faith-filled individual who joyfully brings her devotion into the classroom and shares it with the entire school community. She also is a cantor for school Masses. With the support of the primary department at St. Cecilia School, she began a monthly Praise and Worship gathering where the students learn two to three songs that celebrate their faith and they also learn about the virtue of the month performing a skit during the Praise and Worship ceremony. In Ms. Harris’ classroom, she has a board depicting the virtue of the month. Daily the students review the virtue and learn a slogan to help them remember what the virtue is and the meaning. Her strong personal faith in Jesus is shared with her students as she models her servant leadership for all grades at the school. Every morning when the school prays together in the hallway, Ms. Harris continues that prayerfulness in her classroom inviting students to share personal prayers as well as well-known prayers such as the Hail Mary and Our Father.
St. Francis High School, Diocese of Joliet
Raeann Huhn has been principal at St. Francis High School for more than 20 of her 38 years at the school. Ms. Huhn’s faith permeates everything she does at the school. Under her leadership, the school has continually earned accreditation, started a one-to-one technology program and was named a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education as well as a Microsoft Showcase School for seven consecutive years. Ms. Huhn opens each meeting in prayer and consistently turns to the school’s values to build and maintain a Christian culture within the community. In all her decisions, she weighs how the outcome might strengthen and celebrate the community’s relationship with Jesus. She consistently focuses on the importance of liturgical experiences for the entire school community. She emphasizes that all faculty, staff and students attend monthly all-school liturgies and acts as a shining example of active devotion. She seeks out opportunities for young men and women to personally encounter Jesus to form their own faith identity. To do this, she emphasizes that all students must complete 15 hours of Christian service each school year. Ms. Huhn continually connects with organizations and supports opportunities for St. Francis students to seek the face of Jesus in those in need.
Blessed Sacrament School, Diocese of Raleigh
Maria Iniquen-Gomez has been a Catholic educator for 47 years. She worked eight years for the Archdiocese of New York before moving to North Carolina. She started as a teacher at Blessed Sacrament School, in Burlington, NC, in 1986. In 2012, Ms. Gomez was appointed the principal of the school. She has been recognized in the Latin American Who’s Who and in 2006 she was the recipient of the Diocese of Raleigh, Monsieur Lewis Excellence in Teaching Award—namely Teacher of the Year. Ms. Gomez is an excellent educator who has embraced the vision of Catholic education in her lifetime. She is well known as a spiritual leader in the community as a member of Blessed Sacrament Church. Everyone seems to know her as she is a Eucharistic Minister and lector. She is a much-needed liaison between the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking parishioners. After the Masses, she becomes the "mayor" greeting everyone. Her open and nurturing relationship with the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes ensures that these organizations provide consistent support to Blessed Sacrament School. Ms. Gomez and the pastor work together to be sure parishioners know that the school is a mission of the parish. At Blessed Sacrament, she is seen as a spiritual leader in the community as well as a servant leader and role model who lives her life in a Christ-like manner.
Sacred Hearts School, Diocese of Honolulu
Tonato Lolesio has taught at Sacred Hearts School for more than 18 years and has led the parish Religious Education program. She has dedicated herself to leading by example as a prayerful person who incorporates prayer and faith into everything she does and is not only relegated to the school day or religion class. When the recent Lahaina Wildfire destroyed Sacred Hearts School and community, Maria was unable to contact others via phone or the internet. By walking a mile up the road from her home she could get a signal and contact staff and students. She took the time to determine the safety and whereabouts of staff and students and prayerfully encouraged all to rely on their faith to get through the shock and devastation. She asked them all to pray together when possible. As the process began to reestablish the school to a temporary location, she ensured that the new location would be at the mission church 10 miles north of the campus and home parish. As the school and parish community continue to recover, Tonata holds fast to praying with students, parents, staff, rescuers, survivors and volunteers. Staff members enduring the struggle for normalcy and recuperation know that Tonato is dedicated to caring for the school community and planning a way to get back to the home campus as soon as possible.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Lansing
Thomas Maloney is a product of Catholic schools and has been sharing his gifts with the Lansing Catholic High School community for 25 years. As a teacher, administrator, president and now superintendent for the Diocese of Lansing, Mr. Maloney is a proven spiritual leader as well as a successful mission leader. As a spiritual leader, he lives his life making sure everything he does points to Jesus as the source and summit of life. He actively works to strengthen the Catholic identity of schools within the diocese by engaging the services of The Institute of Catholic Liberal Education to renew schools using Catholic Intellectual Tradition where every subject is taught through the Catholic lens to “form young people in knowledge, wisdom and virtue so that they become happy and holy adults who can fulfill their God-given potential in this life and attain heaven in the next.” In the diocesan office, he is a spiritual leader true to his mission-centered focus to lead through his daily actions of attending Mass and calling on the Holy Spirit for wisdom to guide and lead the daily activities of the office. Mr. Maloney encourages all staff to turn to prayer before making any major life decisions and frequently reminds his colleagues to do a spiritual check-in when experiencing difficulties.
Dr. Ann Middendorf
Ursuline Academy of Dallas, Diocese of Dallas
Dr. Ann Middendorf has dedicated her life to teaching the Catholic faith to the young women of Dallas Fort Worth. With 30 years of dedicated teaching of Catholic theology, more than 3,000 women have studied the faith under her at every high school level, including students who are children of previous generations of her students. Ann has taken on every responsibility within the theology roles at Ursuline. From graduating as an alumna to returning to teach theology, to theology department chair, running retreats, attending student pilgrimages, coordinating summer faith-based trips and cultural exchange travel, Ann does it all. Her unwavering commitment was tested in 2015 when faced with a brain tumor and major surgery. Despite this challenge, she continued in her Theological Doctoral Program, graduated and continued teaching the faith. Her devotion to teaching permeates generations of students, affecting multiple generations of families from mothers and daughters to aunts and nieces, to cousins, siblings and more. And her dedication to female Catholic education reflects a servant's heart, which is the core of the Ursuline SERVIAM charism and mission, to keep eyes focused on inspiring young women to make a difference in the world, reflective of who they are as Christians and Catholics.
Erika Mickelburgh, Ed.D.
St. Paul of the Cross School, Archdiocese of Chicago
Park Ridge, IL
Dr. Erika Mickelburgh has been principal of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic School since 2018. Under her leadership, the school was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2020. Her many accomplishments include: the redesign of the marketing and enrollment office resulting in an increase of 200 students over two years; the redesign of the school curriculum to include Writers Workshop, Conceptual Math Program and Guided Reading; facilitation of a comprehensive communication plan to update more than 500 school families on school activities, events and news; implementation of a comprehensive program for inclusion and student wellness, focusing on social emotional skills; and implementation of a comprehensive reopening plan to ensure safe in-person learning during the pandemic. She established and attends the weekday all-school Mass. Dr. Mickelburgh exemplifies spirituality in living God's message through her actions as a Catholic mission-driven servant leader. She thoughtfully prioritizes what’s best for the students and works hard to develop teachers to be the lifeblood of Catholic education at St. Paul. Well known for keeping her word, to the delight of the students and faculty alike, she gladly followed through on her promises to work an entire day on the roof in the cold and also 'kiss a pig' as rewards for successful school-led fun runs.
Knoxville Catholic High School, Diocese of Knoxville
Richard (Dickie) Sompayrac began his teaching career as director of admissions at Notre Dame High School and taught chemistry at all levels. He joined Bishop England High School in Charleston, SC, and taught chemistry before becoming dean of faculty and co-disciplinarian. He has been the president of Knoxville Catholic High School since 2005. He has increased the rigor and community presence of the school through advancement in all curricular and co-curricular programs and successfully funded expansions and renovations to the campus—a state-of-the-art auditorium and a STREAM innovation lab. This year, he facilitated a 1.5-hour catechesis on the Mass for faculty, organized two 45-minute presentations with student-led questions on the Mass, purchased 160 prayer or Catholic devotional books to give to the faculty for classroom use and he leads a weekly rosary before school. He attends daily Mass with the students and supports and attends weekly Bible study for faculty and staff. He ensures the school calendar includes two faculty retreat times, one all-school retreat for the school community and grade-level retreats. He readily serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. One student commented that this was a sign of how he spiritually nourishes the students throughout the year. He volunteers as a mentor for boys in youth detention.
Dr. James Tabor
Director of Evangelization
Regis St. Mary Catholic School, Archdiocese of Portland
Dr. James Tabor (Regis Class of 1983) is the director of evangelization for Regis St. Mary Catholic School. He retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2008 after 20 years of service and has spent nine years in Connecticut serving in Parish Ministry, studying for two Master’s degrees and discerning the priesthood with the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles. Dr. Tabor has been working at Regis High School as the theology instructor and is currently leading the Latino Enrollment Initiative at Regis in partnership with Notre Dame University.
He is laser-focused on Catholic identity and embraces his role of director of evangelization with enthusiasm, spiritual zeal, joy and excitement. He leads the Catholic identity of two merged schools—now one Preschool-12 system on two campuses. Under his leadership, the last accreditation visit resulted in a "Highly Effective" Catholic identity rating, due to his leadership, vision and thoughtful approach to embracing the faith in our schools.
Dr. Tabor partners with community members to lead small discipleship groups at the high school level, he introduced Fellowship of Christian Athletes to our students, takes groups of students to Steubenville Conferences every summer, has taken students to the Walk for Life in San Francisco multiple times and he will take a dozen high school students to the Life Teen Leadership Conference this summer. Archbishop Sample has recognized the work of Dr. Tabor and has praised Regis High School for its outstanding Catholic Identity.
Rev. Timothy Wyciskalla, JCL
Saint Mark the Evangelist Catholic Parish and School, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Father Tim Wyciskalla attended St. Barnabas Parish and graduated from Roncalli High School in 2006. Father Tim was ordained in 2014, served as an associate pastor at several parishes and as chaplain of Roncalli High School. In 2016, Father Tim was invited to pursue his Canon Law Licentiate in Rome. This was completed in 2019 and he returned to Indianapolis where he now serves as the Pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist. Father Tim works closely with the school to teach the students the many ways of practicing and modeling the Catholic faith such as adoration, stations of the cross, praying the rosary and Reconciliation. A perfect example of his leadership is the patience and time he invests in training new altar servers for school and parish Masses. Father Tim is a dedicated spiritual leader always there for students, staff and parishioners. He is an excellent model for making Catholic identity a focus and priority in our parish and school. He provides insights, homilies and direction that lead the community closer to God. His real-life examples and stories connect his spiritual themes to the students’ lives. He makes spiritual truths that are difficult to understand, reachable and relatable to people of all ages, even the youngest ones. Father often visits classrooms and incorporates themes of the school into his homilies, creating a consistent message about faith. Father Tim often takes time to speak with classes before leading Mass to share his faith knowledge and answer questions.