Local Schools

Two area educators recognized as Teachers of the Year

Kindergarten teacher Liz Gonzales of Resurrection School in Kansas City, Kansas, has a little fun with her students shortly after learning she had been named the Archdiocesan Elementary School Teacher of the Year. PHOTO BY FELICIA HOLCOMB

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kindergarten teacher Liz Gonzales was so busy getting an eyelash out of a student’s eye during an all-school assembly at Resurrection School here on Jan. 29 that she nearly missed an important announcement.

“I was in the middle of helping that student and wasn’t really aware of what was going on until they announced my name,” she said. “I realized, oh my gosh, this is for me.”

The announcement was that Gonzales had been named the Archdiocesan Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

And she wasn’t the only top teacher celebrated.

During an all-school assembly on Feb. 1 at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, math teacher Kayla Moylan was named Archdiocesan High School Teacher of the Year.

Bishop Miege High School math teacher Kayla Moylan is all smiles as she accepts her award as Archdiocesan High School Teacher of the Year during an assembly at the school in Roeland Park. PHOTO BY FELICIA HOLCOMB

Both honors are awarded by the Kansas Association of Independent and Religious Schools (KAIRS) and were presented by archdiocesan superintendent Vince Cascone and assistant superintendents Allison Carney and Lorenzo Rizzi.

This is the second year that two Archdiocesan Teacher of the Year awards have been given.

Gonzales, originally from the Dallas area, is a graduate of Kansas State University in Manhattan and has been a teacher for 12 years — 11 of them at Resurrection School, literally in the shadow of the Cathedral of St. Peter.

Principal Kevin O’Brien, who nominated her, said he could not think of a better, more deserving candidate for the award than Gonzales.

“I nominated Liz Gonzales because she exemplified our five core values at Resurrection,” said O’Brien. “She does an amazing job with our kindergartners promoting individual achievement. She celebrates the diversity of her students in a way that makes every student feel welcome.

Moreover, said O’Brien, “she is a model of faith and in teaching the faith to our kindergartners.”

Liz Gonzales is surprised with the Elementary School Teacher of the Year award by archdiocesan superintendent Vince Cascone. PHOTO BY FELICIA HOLCOMB

When the award was announced, Gonzales’ students excitedly cheered and clapped, and wanted to give her high-fives and hugs. A lot of her former students in the upper grades cheered, too.

What does it mean for her to be a Catholic educator?

“The biggest thing for me is being able to share my faith with my students, to bring Christ into every aspect of their learning — whether it’s reading, math or doing religion,” said Gonzales. “Being able to share that faith with our students is a huge part of education for me, and a Catholic education specifically.”

Although she is a relatively young teacher, Moylan is well deserving of her Archdiocesan High School Teacher of the Year award, said Maureen Engen, principal of Bishop Miege High School.

“Kayla Moylan is like no other teacher when it comes to her commitment to bringing students closer to Jesus Christ,” said Engen. “Her words and actions are 100 percent inspired by the Holy Spirit as she intentionally chooses ‘God’s will be done’ in every second of her life and in every interaction she has with students and faculty at Bishop Miege.”

Kayla Moylan fist bumps her fellow Bishop Miege High School staff members after receiving her Archdiocesan High School Teacher of the Year award in a surprise ceremony at the school. PHOTO BY FELICIA HOLCOMB

Moylan, who grew up as a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Marys, is a graduate of Kansas State University and has taught for seven years, three of them at Bishop Miege. She teaches geometry and algebra II. She briefly discerned a vocation with the Little Sisters of the Lamb before coming to Miege.

For Moylan, the best part of receiving the award was the students’ reaction.

“That was the best part,” said Moylan. “Before [they announced my name], the kids did a drumroll with their feet.

“Once they said my name, the kids cheered. What was really touching is the kids stood up. I was really touched. All the kids I taught at Bishop Miege are still here. It was super-sweet, and I felt really honored. It was so super-affirming to receive their love. I love my students so much and I hope and pray they know that.”

Engen also said that Moylan’s intangible Christian qualities can’t be easily expressed through words alone, and she has an extraordinary ability to know people.

“In fact, there is not one place she goes at Miege where her impact isn’t felt,” said Engen. “She has started a new tradition at Miege called ‘Summit,’ a monthly evening of witness and [eucharistic] adoration. She also organized a student prayer group that meets each week in the morning and then goes to Mass together.”

What does it mean to Moylan to be a Catholic educator?

“We have the freedom to share our faith with our students and to encourage them in their own faith journeys in a unique and special way, very simply, at the same time,” said Moylan. “This is how the Lord is as well. He’s simply with us. And I feel as a Catholic educator, I get to just be simply here.

“I start my class with prayer and can be with my students in an authentic way to show them my love for them and the Lord. And when kids are struggling here, as a Catholic educator, I can ask them if they would like [me to pray with them]. I love praying for my students.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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