December 21, 2010
Amarillo—Geri Russell of St. Mary’s School in Amarillo is one of 12 teachers from across the United States to receive the 2011 NCEA Distinguished Teacher Award from the Department of Elementary Schools of the National Catholic Educational Association. The recipients of this award, which honors distinguished teaching, come from the 12 geographic regions that compose the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools. Russell was chosen from a possible pool of over 100,000 teachers.
Russell has given 27 years of service to Catholic education and holds a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University). She began her teaching ministry at St. John Neumann School in Lubbock for eight years, followed by 13 years at St. Joseph’s School in Amarillo before joining the faculty at St. Mary’s in 2005.
When asked to summarize her philosophy of teaching, Russell said, “I want children to have a fire for learning more about themselves, their Creator, their surroundings and their world, because of an internal desire to learn all they can.”
The NCEA honor is another in a long line of honors Russell has received in her teaching career. She is a recipient of the Shell Outstanding Teacher Award, the KAMR-TV 4 Teacher of the Week Award and has been included in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
“Mrs. Russell is an amazing educator,” said Annette Mitchell, a parent whose children attend St. Mary’s School. “She embraces every moment in the classroom as an opportunity to teach all subjects. She gives herself 100% to St. Mary’s School and her humble spirit shines through in everything she does.”
“Geri Russell is most definitely in the very top percentage of master teachers in our area, not only for her instructional skills and knowledge of content, but for her love for students and tireless dedication to the teaching profession,” said Kathi Lewis, principal at St. Mary’s School. “Her Catholic faith shines through in her teaching and is at the heart of all her interactions with students, parents and colleagues.”
“She was, without a doubt, one of the very best teachers I have ever had,” said Amarillo businessman and St. Joseph’s School alum Joshua Raef. “Even though she taught me in fourth grade, when I see her to this day I still feel a special connection because of the care she took and the influence she has had on my life. I know many of her former students feel the same way.”
Father Robert A. Busch, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Amarillo, has known and worked with Russell for more than 20 years.
“She is not only a classroom teacher, but also a model of what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ,” Father Busch said. “St. Mary’s School and the entire diocese are blessed by her presence and her commitment to Catholic education.”
Father Busch added that in recognizing Russell, the National Catholic Educational Association was honoring all teachers in the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Amarillo.
“This is a tremendous honor not only for Geri, who has contributed so much to Catholic education in our diocese over the past few decades, but also for all of us who minister in Catholic schools. There are so many outstanding teachers serving in all of our Catholic schools, and, in a sense, Geri will be a representative of all of them when she accepts her award,” Father Busch said.
Russell will be honored at special ceremonies and a banquet on the opening evening of the annual Convention of the National Catholic Educational Association on Tuesday, April 26 in New Orleans.
According to Brother Robert Bimonte, executive director of the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools, all awardees have served for at least 10 years in a Catholic elementary school.
“Each of these outstanding educators embodies the very best of Catholic education,” Bimonte said. “Their commitment to academic excellence and dedication to young people are the reasons parents choose Catholic schools.”
NCEA is the largest, private professional educational association in the world. Founded in 1904, the association’s membership represents more than 150,000 educators serving over 2,000,000 students in Catholic education at all levels.