Meet Seton’s Teachers and Leader of the Year

As we know from research and personal experience, teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education. Last month, we honored three extraordinary teachers as Seton Catholic Schools’ first-ever Teachers of the Year. Honorees were selected for their outstanding contributions to the classroom, school and wider community, including driving student academic outcomes. Teachers were nominated by their colleagues and selected by a team of educators and school leaders.

DeKisha Bridges, K3, St. Catherine School

Ms. DeKisha Bridges is a reflective practitioner and cultural leader at St. Catherine School. As lead teacher for three-year old kindergarten, Ms. Bridges pushes students to achieve high expectations, preparing them for kindergarten by building foundational literacy, numeracy and study skills. She has also implemented the Transformational Reading Initiative to align her students’ learning with the rest of the school. Not only is Ms. Bridges “all in” for her students, but for the entire school community. She collaborates with Principal Mike Turner to strengthen school culture and has become an anchor for the faculty, staff and students. She also has strong relationships with students across the building and often uses her lunch and prep times to check-in with other classrooms and offer support. Ms. Bridges’ relentless positivity and sense of possibility are driving her students and school forward-and deeply worthy of recognition as a Seton Catholic Schools Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Bloom, First Grade, St. Thomas Aquinas Academy

Ms. Jennifer Bloom is a deeply carding educator who pushed through new challenges to become an even stronger teacher and leader at St. Thomas Aquinas Academy. With new educational strategies and expectations in place this year, Ms. Bloom led the charge to grow. She engaged in professional development, adapted her practice, held herself and her students to high expectations, sought out feedback. As a result, Ms. Bloom became one of only five teachers in the network to lead her students to reach both their individual growth goals and class-wide growth goals in math and reading. Ms. Bloom’s students grew, on average, 1.3 years in reading and 1.4 years in math. Additionally, Ms. Bloom is an active force in the school and parish community. She has created a model classroom and is always willing to support her colleagues. She sits on the school leadership team and leads after school clubs. According to her principal, she has a great passion for Catholic education and for her students and is “always focused on what is best for students.”

Melena Torres, K5, Prince of Peace School

From the moment you step into Mrs. Melena Torres’ classroom, you just know she loves her kids! It is apparent in everything she does for her five-year old kindergarten students and their families. Mrs. Torres brings care and joy to students as they learn to read books, write stories, share experiences, take turns, and give and get hugs-all while learning their letters and numbers and the English language! She values bilingualism and nurtures her students’ first language while moving them toward proficiency in English. Mrs. Torres builds a strong foundation for her students’ elementary school education: This spring her students grew, on average, 1.5 years in reading in less than five months! Outside the classroom, Mrs. Torres supports Prince of Peace students in the Homework Help program and shares her Mexican heritage and folk dancing at school events and community festivals. Mrs. Torres is a critical teacher and role model within the school community and deeply deserving of recognition as a Teacher of the Year.

Additionally, we recognized a our first-ever Leader of the Year. This recognition is for exceptional leadership provided to students, staff and the community to ensure all students receive a quality education. We honored Amy Barbiaux with the inaugural Leader of the Year Award.

Amy Barbiaux, Assistant Principal, St. Rafael the Archangel School

As a first-year assistant principal on a new school leadership team, Ms. Amy Barbiaux has demonstrated a relentless commitment to supporting her students, families and staff in immeasurable ways this school year. According to her colleagues, Ms. Barbiaux believes deeply in her students and approaches every day with a focus on delivering a high-quality education. She is not afraid to step into any role to support the school. At any given hour, you will find Ms. Barbiaux substitute teaching, administering assessments, or giving verbal pop quizzes to students in the hallway. She has also been described as the “model of growth mindset,” as she is continuously engaging in professional learning and development. In a year of transition at St. Rafael, Amy has dedicated herself to transforming the school into a high performing choice for the school community. Her contributions to the leadership team have helped to increase student enrollment and academic performance this year. Even with her intense determination to serve, Ms. Barbiaux always has a smile on her face and can bring levity to any situation with her great sense of humor. Her colleagues describe her as funny, positive, dynamic, efficient, smart, caring, and a pleasure to work with. Her personal care and commitment to Catholic education and high academic expectations for all students will continue to catalyze positive change at St. Rafael.