Suzanne Casey
Suzanne Casey
Ask Suzanne Casey about her more than 20 years working in Catholic education, and she readily responds, “I have never called what I do work.”

“Being able to live and share my beliefs as part of my curriculum and role modeling every day is profound,” she said. “Participating in our beliefs through Mass, service and Sacraments with our students is very rewarding.”

Casey, department head/technology coordinator in Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Moorestown, has been named the New Jersey Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year Award for 2020.

“I am so happy for you and OLGC School,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., wrote in an email to Casey. “Congratulations! It is well-deserved. Thank you for your great work at OLGC.”

The New Jersey Council for American Private Education announced the honor in early December, and Casey received an award during a Dec. 15 online meeting that included staff from the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools. Judy Nicastro, associate director of school services/data management/marketing, presented the award. Nicastro also serves as president of NJCAPE and is the chair of the N.J. Department of Education Nonpublic Schools Advisory Committee.

Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, noted that Casey was the first educator in the Diocese to receive the distinguished award since 2008.

“The fact that Suzanne Casey was recognized this year, of all years, with the effects of COVID present in the schools and stressing the abilities of teachers nationwide, is a statement to her abilities and willingness to do whatever is necessary to deliver on behalf of the students and wanting to bring the mission of our Catholic schools into the lives of the students of OLGC,” Schmidt said.

Paying It Forward

Casey credits the nine years she attended Catholic school as being the inspiration for her wanting to pursue a career in teaching. It was also what led her and her husband of 31 years, Jim, to send their two daughters, Domenica and Harper, to Our Lady of Good Counsel School. When Domenica, who is now 27, was in third grade, the school became in need of a technology teacher, Casey recalled, and “after some prompting and praying, I took the job.

“I felt it was a calling, coming full circle to give back what I had been given as a product of a Catholic school,” she said, adding that Harper, 24, also now serves in the school.

Along with teaching computer science, some of Casey’s career highlights include: creating best practices for Google Classroom to enhance student learning; establishing media and robotics clubs, and overseeing the renovation of the school’s technology lab. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with the school principal, Dr. Carla Chiarelli, to guarantee virtual and in-school learning capabilities that successfully served families and students in the entire school community.

“I am always learning in the field and I love sharing … the resources that might help make the job easier and even more exciting,” said Casey, who holds an associate’s degree in political science from Camden Community College, and a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, where she has pursued additional studies over the years.

“When COVID sent us into quarantine, our teachers were ready to keep right on teaching,” Casey said. “Being a Google school since 2014, our teachers had the background in digitally posting assignments. Our teachers are willing to try things that challenge them. I love working with them.”

Well-Deserved Honor

Indeed, it was Casey’s work spearheading the virtual learning program over the past five years that factored into Chiarelli nominating Casey for the nonpublic school teacher award.

“Her ongoing knowledge and thirst for updated information with technology and how to better support our staff and students is ever-growing,” Chiarelli said. “She represents not only teachers, but OLGC teachers as an advocate and ambassador of the work we do with parents, children and families in our community and other communities. I can hardly describe my overwhelming excitement when they announced Casey as the 2020 Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year. Not only was it well-deserved, it was well overdue.”