Beverly Ekstrom, a 31-year veteran of the Archbishop Williams High School Foreign Language Department and an alumna from the Class of 1971, was honored with an Archdiocese of Boston Excellence in Education Award at a luncheon on May 8 with Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Kathy Mears, the Superintendent of the Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Schools.
“This is a wonderful honor and well-deserved recognition for Beverly who has dedicated her life to Catholic education, most of it at Archbishop Williams, and for whom excellence in and out of the classroom, is a daily accomplishment,” said Dennis Duggan '70, President of Archbishop Williams.
“Mrs. Ekstrom embodies the mission of AWHS and Catholic education,” added Principal Dr. Michael Volonnino. “This honor is extremely well deserved and we are grateful for everything she has done for our school.”
For Mrs. Ekstrom, the award was unexpected. “It feels strange getting an award when you’re doing what you really love, from the kids to the work,” she said.
Mrs. Ekstrom was one of 10 award recipients, who included five elementary and five secondary school teachers selected from a pool of candidates from throughout the archdiocese. Her award included a beautiful glass paperweight globe with her name and award etched on the base; the book, "Five Minutes with the Psalms and the Wisdom Books;" and $1,500.
Mrs. Ekstrom was especially happy to see Cardinal O'Malley since he had arranged VIP seating for her school group for a Papal audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican when the group toured Italy in April vacation.
“When the Cardinal came over to the table to congratulate us, I gave him a nice Archbishop Williams High School folder which included a large picture of the group at St. Peter’s Square, and a ‘Thank You’ card signed by all of the students,” Mrs. Ekstrom said. “I said, ‘thank you, but I owe you for those wonderful tickets for the Papal audience.’ He said ‘I’m so glad things worked out,’ and passed the picture around the table. When I received the award, he congratulated me again and thanked me for the picture. I’m so excited I was able to personally thank him for the tickets.”
The winners of the Excellence in Education Award were chosen for a number of important qualities, according to Mears.
“This year’s award winners represent extraordinary teachers who go above and beyond every day to educate our students. They are committed to developing saints and scholars. These awards shine a bright light on the incredible work happening in our schools. The teachers selected demonstrate strong leadership qualities, model a faith-filled life, promote academic excellence and are committed to their students and school. Every day they inspire students from all backgrounds and abilities to learn, and they actively collaborate with their peers, students, and families to create a welcoming environment and culture of success. On behalf of the Catholic Schools Office and the Catholic Schools Foundation, we applaud the recipients for their initiative, innovation and commitment.”
Mrs. Ekstrom’s accomplishments and contributions were specifically acknowledged in the following statement, which was read at the ceremony and displayed on a screen:
“Mrs. Ekstrom is a highly dedicated teacher who places her students above everything else. Making herself available for tutoring before and after school, creating engaging lessons, and developing extracurricular activities that incorporate embedded learning, she has set up a model for success in foreign language acquisition. Every year she has students who are awarded for excellence on the National Spanish Exam. Also, many former students have gone on to become Spanish teachers themselves.
“As the Chair of the Foreign Language Department, she has created many opportunities for her students. Mrs. Ekstrom has led them on trips to Europe, supported Spanish homestays, and started the school’s chapter of the National Spanish Honor Society. She brings Spanish language to life during Latin America Days and Mardi Gras. Always cognizant of her school’s mission and the traditions of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, she incorporates faith and learning by having services for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Lourdes.
“In the words of one of her students (senior Lindsay Stelljes), ‘Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Ekstrom reaches out to her students and embodies the ‘family school’ community that we are a part of here. She gets to know all of her students and will frequently ask me how my parents are and how my other classes are going…I believe that great teachers are the ones that you can easily make a connection with and Mrs. Ekstrom is surely an example of that.’”
In addition to her responsibilities as Department Chair, Mrs. Ekstrom has also served as the school’s Director of Admissions. Earlier in her career, Mrs. Ekstrom was a teacher for 11 years at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, and for one year at Sacred Heart High School in Weymouth.
Award recipients were nominated by administrators, staff, pastors, parents and students in their schools. The award selection committee, comprised of teachers and principals in the Archdiocese and members of the Catholic Schools Office, read all nominations and interviewed the finalists to identify 10 exemplary educators in the Archdiocese of Boston. The award was also supported by the Catholic Schools Foundation.
“Teachers are at the heart of Catholic education and CSF is honored to help support the Excellence Awards and recognize a few of these amazing women and men,” said Mike Reardon, Executive Director of the Catholic Schools Foundation. “We are grateful to share in the work that they do each day in classrooms across the Archdiocese.”