Brunswick teacher named Maine Catholic School Teacher of the Year

“I had no idea. It feels great, but wow.”

Receiving the 2019 Maine Catholic School Teacher of the Year Award may have caught Kathleen Curry off guard, but anyone who has been blessed to have her as a teacher during a two-plus decades career in Catholic education couldn’t be less surprised.

Kathleen Curry, a kindergarten teacher at St. Johns Catholic School in Brunswick, has been named the 2019 Maine Catholic School Teacher of the Year. Contributed

Curry, a kindergarten teacher at St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick, received the award from Marianne Pelletier, superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools, in front of a roaring crowd of students, staff and family at the St. John’s Community Center, located next to the school, on Oct. 10.

The annual award is given to a teacher who shows instructional excellence, innovation and a commitment to recognizing faith in the classroom. Candidates are nominated by their principals, with the winner ultimately chosen by a selection committee. As the winner of the Maine Catholic School Teacher of the Year Award, Curry will receive a plaque, a $600 cash prize and an additional $600 for her classroom.

Only a small group of people knew Curry would receive the award prior to the announcement at the assembly.

“She’s going to be upset with me that I didn’t tell her,” her husband, Don, said before the presentation. “She’ll get over it, but she doesn’t like attention.”

Joining Don was Curry’s daughter, Meghan, and her two 4-year-old grandsons, who officially spilled the beans during the assembly when they emerged from behind a curtain with flowers for their grandmother.

“This is well deserved. She’s done this forever and she loves it,” Meghan said. “It’s been a really great experience to be around her for me and for my kids. She’s always made a loving home.”

Curry’s home away from home has been a Catholic school, both as a student and teacher.

As a girl, she attended St. Joseph’s followed by Catherine McAuley High School, both in Portland. When she realized she had a passion for teaching, it didn’t take long for Curry to figure out where she should do it.

“I taught for a little while in public school but, thankfully, Sister Theresa Rand came and got me and now, I’ve been a teacher in a Catholic school for almost 25 years,” Curry said. “I was at Cathedral School in Portland and was actually acting principal when it closed, which broke my heart. It’s been great at St. John’s. This is my ninth year here.”

In those nine years, she has become an integral part of the St. John’s community. Despite driving to and from her home in Saco each day, Curry serves as the director of the school’s Learning Center, an aftercare program.

“She regularly works until 5 p.m. in the Learning Center, even after an entire day with kindergarten students,” said Shelly Wheeler, principal of St. John’s.

“She is gentle and patient in dealing with the kindergarteners and they really learn,” said Father Joseph Ford, school chaplain at St. John’s. “It’s amazing to watch them from when they start to the end of the year. Already, now (October), you can see the advance they’ve made in just a month. She has a great way with them.”

“It’s special. It’s humbling. The refugee children have strong faith and they are so eager to learn,” Curry said. “They want to learn and are so happy to be here. They are very giving, and their parents are helpful.”

Through their wide smiles on Thursday, even a casual observer could see the affection the students hold for Curry. Music teacher Jocelyn Carr and students sang a special tribute with lyrics written especially for their beloved teacher, and Wheeler herself became teary-eyed when describing Curry’s impact on the school and community.

“I am blessed to have Mrs. Curry on our teaching staff,” Wheeler said. “She is truly an amazing gift from God.”