The District of Eastern North America is proud to present the 2013 Distinguished Lasallian Educators
Each year, The Brothers of the Christian Schools of the Lasallian Region of North America recognize Lasallian Educators for their outstanding work and dedication to the charism of Saint La Salle, with the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award at the annual Huether Lasallian Conference. This year in New Orleans, LA, with the focus on Meaningful Instruction: Living Lasallian Pedagogy, these three Educators will be honored for their dedication to the Lasallian mission.
Sister Ave Armstrong, SSJ
English Teacher / Department Chair
West Catholic Preparatory High School – Philadelphia, PA
Sister Ave Armstrong, SSJ, has achieved an exalted, almost iconic status as an English teacher and English Department chair at West Catholic Preparatory High School. Sister Ave’s love for her students and her desire that they learn to love learning has been a constant aspect of her vocation. Her love of literature and her desire that students learn to express themselves clearly and intelligently is palpable! Students quickly realize that Sister Ave will be there for them from early in the morning until far past dismissal in the afternoon. They quickly recognize that Sister Ave is interested in them as individuals and is anxious always to help them succeed. Saint John Baptist de La Salle exhorted his young community of Brothers to touch the hearts of their students. This is exactly what Sister Ave has been doing for nearly 30 years!
Her devotion to the Gospel values of charity, compassion, honesty, and humility are apparent to any who know her. However, her faith reaches far beyond herself. Her students can see it, sense it. Whether she is teaching a classic of literature, subject-verb agreement, or the five paragraph essay, they know these topics are vitally important. However, they also know from the first day of school that there is more to her class, that they will learn to live as young Christian men and women and to conduct themselves accordingly, along with knowledge of Shakespeare and grammar. This is no easy task. Some students enter West Catholic not only struggling with English skills, but lacking a clear sense of who
they are and what is expected of them. By June, nearly all have been won over. Through Sister Ave’s guidance and example, they are better able to live Gospel values. In every sense, her methods embody “Meaningful Instruction.”
From Euripides and Socrates, to Shakespeare and Dante, from Ibsen and Bronte, to Miller and Hemingway, to contemporary writers like Suzanne Collins and Athol Fugard, Sister Ave’s classes explore the gamut of literary traditions. Her passion for literature shines through each of her classes, and every one of her students is better prepared for having been there.
Whether she is helping to form freshmen or giving the final polish to her seniors, Sister Ave leads her students into an understanding that God’s love for them calls them to live honestly and deeply. She is the perfect model of these aspects in her dedication to the education of youth.
Brother David Detje, FSC
Science & Math Teacher / Department Chair
De La Salle Academy – New York, NY
Brother David Detje has been a stalwart of LaSallian pedagogy and spirituality at De La Salle Academy, for 26 years. In their own way our students know that Brother David Detje is the living embodiment of Lasallian pedagogy and spirituality at De La Salle. Through the grace of God, Brother David makes manifest The Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher
Brother David is in possession of a certain seriousness that inspires confidence in his ability to lead, among his teaching colleagues in the math and science departments, as well as among his students. This gravity manifests itself in his thorough preparation of his classes and the orderly manner in which he systematically tackles the content of the complex, advanced curricula with his students. Brother David’s razor-sharp intellect is always tempered with humility. Every member of this community, from the youngest student to the most senior member of faculty, benefits from his intellectual acuity. All are made welcome to the pursuit of intellectual excellence. No one leaves Brother David’s presence with a feeling of inadequacy, but rather with a sense of possibility and hope and the willingness to risk and to try, such is his humility and his enthusiasm for the intellectual lives of his students.
Every morning after praying the Eucharist, about an hour before the bell for homeroom strikes, Brother David begins his day patiently and with gentleness attending to the students, some of whom have risen around 5:00 AM, so that they might literally take their place in line at school to ask for his help and support in math or science or one of the faith courses. Every afternoon Brother David once again generously extends the mantle of patience to those who need help and support. He does so until late every evening, such is his zeal for the sons and daughters of his God.
Brother David in his own life has cultivated a deep and abiding spirituality. His piety is one that is simultaneously simple and profound. It is no coincidence that Brother David is often referred to as the “Soul” of De La Salle Academy. Soaring above all of these virtues emanates a brotherly love that is second to none. Even though Brother David offers a constant stream of support in academics, it is when he extends himself in loving wisdom to his students and his colleagues that the real “magic” that is De La Salle Academy begins to happen. His conversations with young people help them to analyze their life situations and explore their options; he empowers them to act in a manner that will increase the quality of their lives at present and positively affect their lives in the future. Over and over again those same young people, now adults, take time out of their busy lives in order to climb those more than eighty grueling stairs that lead to Brother David’s classroom. In that sacred space many of them found out that they were loved. Some of them made that discovery for the very first time.
To put it simply, Brother David is a true Brother of the Christian Schools. He lives and breathes Lasallian pedagogy and spirituality. Monsieur La Salle rejoices in heaven when he hears Brother David’s first footstep on the stairs that lead to his classroom.
Ms. Linda Majkrzak
Math Teacher / Former Asst. Principal for Academic Affairs
St. John’s College High School – Washington, DC
For the past eleven years, Linda Majkrzak has been a dedicated, loyal and honest Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs at st. John’s College High School. During this time she also taught one section of Math each year and assisted with our testing center and mandatory study hall for freshmen who are experiencing academic difficulties. In all of these roles, I cannot remember a time when the needs of the students did not come first.
I have had the privilege of working with Linda for three of her eleven-year tenure as Vice-Principal. Linda Majkrzak gave me full and unprecedented support from the day I walked into the principal’s position at St. John’s. There was always a team approach to our decisions even when it was clear that there wasn’t total agreement. The past three years at St. John’s have seen many changes in curriculum, technology, and the expansion of our faculty. Linda has been instrumental, visionary, as well as a source of great wisdom with these changes. Linda is a Lasallian Leader in the St John’s community. She is a graduate of LLI and is frequently a participant in our Heritage on Tap Program. More importantly Linda cares deeply about the children entrusted to her. Not a schedule change academically challenged or problematic child, or a student who needs extra support because of a medical or family crisis goes unheeded or unattended to. Linda is there for her students who need her the most.
Mrs. Majkrzak is also a font of wisdom and common sense. These two inherent qualities of hers have been invaluable to me as principal. There are not many difficult situations that come up that we both don’t discuss before a final decision is made. It is always a comfort to know that there is someone who shares the same values and can both affirm and challenge you into making the best decisions. Linda has this gift, which I believe is the result of a deep-rooted faith and care for everyone that she comes into contact with on a daily basis.
Over the past year, Linda has been preparing herself for her return to full-time classroom instruction. In preparation for this she has audited a Geometry course and familiarized herself with the iPad, which all teachers will use for instruction next year. These are just some more examples of Linda’s dedication to the school and her profession. She truly embodies the ideals and values of St. John Baptist De La Salle.