Originally published by Dan Pietrafesa on CNY.org
Vera Parnese is humbled and appreciative to be one of more than 40 distinguished honorees recognized at an Evening of Teacher Recognition and Call to Discernment hosted by the archdiocese’s Superintendent of Schools office at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan Jan. 24.
The honorees received an invitation to apply for a Curran Fellowship in the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy, which offers each fellow the opportunity to return to college to study to become a school principal.
“I’ve never considered that type of vocation. For someone to have faith in me that I can fulfill that role and to consider it spiritually is unbelievable to me,” said Ms. Parnese, a teacher at St. Charles School on Staten Island for 17 years who was nominated by her principal, John Kiernan.
“I’ve always been fascinated with learning,” she told CNY. “It’s an ongoing process, and what’s interesting is you’re continually evolving. Growth never stops. It’s a continuous process.”
Teachers and principals mingled for about 30 minutes before going into a conference room to watch an archdiocesan video about serving as a Catholic school principal. They were recognized by Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, and Steven Virgadamo, an associate superintendent who oversees the leadership academy.
“The best way to find a new principal is right in our own backyard with our good teachers,” Dr. McNiff said. “We want to plant a seed tonight to thank them for what they’re doing, but there are other opportunities and challenges. We’d like them to think about that. This is so important we ask their spouse to come because this is a family decision that we’re asking them to do.”
Virgadamo said the leadership academy and the teacher recognition evening continue to flourish.
“This is our fourth year of doing this. So what we’re starting to see is there are individuals who have been nominated and have gone through the program that are now willing to nominate others,” Virgadamo said.
“Even individuals who don’t go to leadership, this is an opportunity to recognize the teachers in our schools who not only make a contribution every single day to see that young people encounter the risen Christ. They are going above and beyond their classroom duties to make sure the ministry of Catholic education is being fulfilled, not just for their students but their families.”
GinaMarie Fonte, principal of Resurrection School in Rye, was one of the first to go through the leadership program and is now nominating her teachers.
“It’s a wonderful job, and I think that if you have it in your heart to do this job, it’s definitely a calling. If you work hard, you will have a wonderful experience and a wonderful school.”
Jon Frega is a first-year principal of St. Elizabeth School in Manhattan and will begin taking classes as a member of the leadership academy in the fall. He nominated a teacher for the next leadership academy class.
“It’s an amazing opportunity. I’m really excited to go back to school,” he said.
Gillian Burgain and David Ellis have taught a combined 40 years at St. Mark the Evangelist School in Manhattan. Both were honored and invited to apply for a fellowship.
“We love (what we do) and this is what God put us on earth to do,” Ellis said.
Michelle Palmieri has taught at Our Lady Star of the Sea School on Staten Island for 18 years and was nominated by her principal, Jeannine Roland.
“It’s such an honor to be here,” said Ms. Palmieri, the mother of three children. “I’m going to look into the academy, talk about it with my husband and think about our future.
“I love what I do. I go to work happy every morning.”