Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Robin Nelson/Archdiocese of Atlanta
Hundreds of people attend the fourth annual Archbishop's Banquet for Catholic Education at the Marriott Perimeter Center, Feb. 5. Photo By Robin Nelson/Archdiocese of Atlanta


Education Celebrated At Catholic Schools Banquet

By STEPHEN O'KANE and ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writers | Published February 17, 2011

Nancy Crane’s office is cozy with its couch, rocking chair, blankets made by her mom. Not the kind of place you’d expect for the school’s director of discipline.

She laughed. “It’s really kind of a joke. We don’t have discipline (problems) at Our Lady of Victory,” she said.

A long-time educator, Crane was chosen from the Tyrone school to be honored at a banquet saluting top teachers at archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools.

Our Lady of Victory School resource teacher Nancy Crane works with third-graders (clockwise, from top right) Julian Grier, Lauren Whitton, Nala Ambrose and Renee Nalewako on an educational board game that quizzes students on topics like history, math and science. Photo By Michael Alexander

“My gift from God is to serve. As a teacher, I feel like I am serving,” she said.

The sentiment is a common one among educators, who were celebrated at the fourth annual Education Banquet on Feb. 5 at the Marriott Atlanta Perimeter Center.

It wrapped up Catholic Schools Week with its theme “Catholic Schools: A+ For America.”

Catholic School Superintendent Diane Starkovich in her closing remarks said, “The history of Catholic education is one rich with academic successes—certainly an A+ in preparing our students for future academic challenges. Last year, 99 percent of our high school seniors graduated on time from high school; 99 percent of them went on to post-secondary institutions of learning. Let anyone try to match these numbers!”

The schools, faculty and students all aim for academic success, service to others and shape each other’s faith, she said.

Some 11,800 students attend 24 Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

Crane, 61, began teaching at the elementary school 10 years ago just when she thought her time in the classroom was ending. She had retired on a Tuesday from Clayton County public schools after 30 years and gave away her materials. By that Friday she had signed a contract at Our Lady of Victory after a call from the principal and a visit to the campus.

“I think I’ll teach until God tells me to quit,” she said.

Crane and her husband, Doug, who teaches social studies at the school, are not Catholic. They worship at the New Hope Baptist Church but made a decision to tithe to the school’s neighboring parish of St. Matthew in Tyrone. Crane’s husband joined the school faculty a year and a half after she did.

The rewards of teaching are many. For Crane, it’s nice when students remember what a teacher did to help them.

Like the time a teenager came back thanking her for holding her back a year to become a stronger student. Later, the teenager graduated as high school valedictorian and remembered Crane’s classroom.

(Front row, l-r) Marist School honoree and director of community service Karen Shanahan is joined by her husband Dennis, Father Joel Konzen, Marist School principal, (back row, l-r) Father John Walls, Marist School director of campus ministry, Desiree Fantini-Shanahan, her daughter-in-law, her son Marcus, Father David Musso, Marist School chaplain, Father John Harhager, Marist School president, her son Matthew, her granddaughter Lola, and her son Seth. Photo By Robin Nelson/Archdiocese of Atlanta

Or the sixth-grade student who was labeled in the term of the day as “retarded” but when Crane took him under her wing, he learned to read the same books as his peers. Six years later, the class asked Crane to be the keynote graduation speaker.

Crane became a teacher because of the efforts of a high school English teacher and librarian who became her champions to get into college. They helped her write application essays and found the money for a full scholarship to Western Kentucky University.

“They are the ones who told me, you need to be a teacher,” she said.

This is the fourth time she’s been recognized in her career as an outstanding teacher. She thinks it’s because she is active with students outside the classroom, from running a math-a-thon to raise money for St. Jude Research Hospital (an effort that raised $16,000 last year) to being in the stands at school sporting events. “I just get the kids gung-ho,” she said.


2011 Archdiocesan Education Banquet Honorees

Kathy Wood

Queen of Angels School, Roswell

Archdiocesan Principal of the Year

Hope Long

All Saints School,, Dunwoody

Archdiocesan Preschool Director of the Year

2011 Outstanding Employees

Archdiocesan & Independent Catholic Schools

Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, Bob Amar; Christ the King School, Atlanta, Josephine Gustafson; Holy Redeemer School, Johns Creek, Sue Kalinauskas; Holy Spirit School, Atlanta, Helen Prieto; Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Atlanta, Bob Baldonado; Marist School, Atlanta, Karen Shanahan; Msgr. Donovan High School, Athens, Pats Laniak; Notre Dame Academy, Duluth, Irene Nowicki; Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville, Vince Antonich; Our Lady of the Assumption School, Atlanta, Jessica Harms; Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone, Nancy Crane; Pinecrest Academy, Cumming, Eric Pfiel; Queen of Angels School, Roswell, Betty Shea; Solidarity School, Atlanta, Ximena Capinegro; St. Catherine of Siena School, Kennesaw, Teresa Kahn; St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Nancy Kulavic; St. John the Evangelist School, Hapeville, Kristin Woolums; St. Joseph School, Athens, Tina Bortle; St. Joseph School, Marietta, Cynthia Granger; St. Jude the Apostle School, Atlanta, Patty Spall; St. Mary School, Rome, Susan McClellan; St. Peter Claver School, Decatur, Ebonie Garrett; St. Pius X High School, Atlanta,  Jeanne Dalton; St. Thomas More School, Decatur, Cate Miller.

‘Miss Ximena’ Gets Students Excited About Learning

After spending just a few minutes in Ximena Capinegro’s classroom at Solidarity School, Sandy Springs, one can easily recognize she is where God has called her to be. Her smiling students are visibly interested and eager to participate in the day’s learning activities as they respectfully listen to the teacher affectionately known to them as “Miss Ximena.”

Capinegro is responsible for 18 pre-K students at Solidarity School, an independent Catholic school just inside the Atlanta perimeter that focuses on the intellectual, spiritual, moral, aesthetic, social and physical development of each student. Solidarity School’s goal is to form individuals who are able to function effectively in, and contribute to, the positive development of their surrounding community.

Even though she felt drawn to teaching most of her life, Capinegro said she never expected to lead such a young group of students. With an educational background in business and ethics, she is equipped with the knowledge to lead a college classroom. However, her heart belongs to her little ones and preparing them to excel in their future studies.

“It is a service (to the community) too,” she said about the Solidarity School program, which gives students the necessary tools to become lifelong learners.

Originally from Bogota, Colombia, South America, Capinegro said she first felt the call to teaching when she was a young student there. Even after earning a degree in business, she could not escape the call to enter the classroom again as an instructor. After moving to the United States in 2001, she began to teach Spanish to people of all ages before becoming part of the Solidarity School team.

“I love it here,” she said, smiling, about the Sandy Springs school. “We are all very close. We try to support each other.”

Solidarity School teacher Ximena Capinegro works with pre-kindergarten students Betsabe Trenado, right center, and Litzy Pineda during a letter printing exercise. Photo By Michael Alexander

Accepting 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children into its program, the school ministers to a student body that is comprised mostly of Hispanic children, teaching lessons in English in hopes of preparing the students to be active and effective in communicating in the language.

“In the other schools when I taught Spanish, there was a satisfaction for me to see them speaking Spanish,” she said, adding that most people were learning Spanish because they wanted to, not out of necessity.

“But here there is a need” for the children to learn to speak English, she said.

“The rationale behind the program provides a study in beginning English instruction at age three, with incremental levels of immersion into the language, and ultimately the use of all materials/books in English by kindergarten level,” states the school’s website. “Upon entering elementary school, students are afforded opportunities due to their ability to have command over the English language in both oral and written expression.”

In addition to working with young pre-K students on learning language, shapes, colors and the alphabet, Capinegro said it is also important to incorporate their Catholic faith into her lessons. She teaches them about the Mass and the traditions of the church, often using the school’s chapel as place of learning, and also includes prayers in her daily routine, something the students have grown to love.

“I try to teach them all the prayers like the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Guardian Angel prayer,” she said. “And now they ask for it. If I forget or we don’t do it, they say, ‘Oh, we did not do the blessing!’”

“I need to be an example of being Catholic because you cannot teach something you are not,” she said.

Capinegro feels the success of Solidarity School is due to the dedication of the entire staff, but she was honored to be recognized by her school and the archdiocese this year for the work that she does for her young students.

“Here I can be the teacher that I want to be,” she said.