St. Agnes teacher named McGee winner

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

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Martha Lies

To Martha Lies, her profession as a first-grade teacher at St. Agnes School is more than just a job. It’s her calling, her vocation.

Lies has been named the recipient of the Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator Award and will be honored at the March 18 Salute to Catholic School Alumni held at the Galt House.

To say she was astonished when she learned the news would be an understatement, she said.

“I was totally shocked. To receive an award of this caliber is astounding,” she said in a recent interview at the school. She still insists, in her ever humble way, that there are many far more deserving reci-pients than her.

“I feel that I’m a representative of many, wonderful teachers in the archdiocese,” she added.

But her principal disagrees with Lies’ modest self-assessment.

“She is very selfless and has a great sense of peace about her. People can’t know Martha and not respect her. She is a very faith-filled woman. That does so much for us as a faculty. It makes it clear what we are all about here,” said Carol Meirose, principal of St. Agnes.

Lies has taught at St. Agnes for 15 years. Prior to that she taught at St. Barnabas School for a year and at St. Elizabeth of Hungary School for nine years. She also taught at St. Rita school for eight years and she has spent the majority of all those years teaching first graders.

She enjoys first grade, she said, because of all the growth that takes place during the school year.

“I like their inquisitiveness. It’s an enjoyable year to teach because they are open to everything you are teaching them,”

Lies said. “I enjoy seeing them wanting to try their best, wanting to achieve. It’s a special year of school.”

Lies said she especially enjoys introducing students to the Mass and liturgy. During the first semester of school, her first-grade students attend Mass with their buddies, older students at St. Agnes. Following Christmas, the first-graders attend Mass on their own. Lies said they take great pride in handling the hymnals on their own.

The Father McGee Award is given to a Catholic school educator that embodies the core values of Catholic education. A description that couldn’t fit Lies better, according to Meirose, who nominated Lies for the McGee Award.

Meirose said Lies’ whole approach to teaching is centered on her faith.

“It’s wrapped through everything she does — the whole notion to teach as Jesus did,” Meirose explained.

Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic schools, said the nomination stood out because Lies integrates her Catholic identity into her teaching and relationships, not only with her students but also her colleagues, parents and parishioners.

“She truly integrates and expresses her Catholic identity in everything that she does,” Schulz said.

Meirose said Lies makes the Catholic faith come alive for her students. When the class studies  the sacrament of baptism, Lies will take them into church and give them a tour of things important to the sacrament, such as the baptismal font.

“During the month of May she will take them on a little tour of the grotto behind church,” Meirose said.

Lies is also a sacristan at the parish and for several years took on the additional role of director of religious education when the parish was in need.

“When you read what the McGee Award is all about. It’s got Martha’s name on it,” Meirose said.

Meirose describes Lies as a “quiet leader” who is very focused on her students. “She has a great acceptance for each child as who he or she is. And for those children who have a different way of learning, it’s no big deal. She meets them where they are,” the principal said.

Lies said she didn’t always know she wanted to be an educator. She entered then-Bellarmine College as a business major, then took a few education courses and ended up loving it.

She said working in education requires some of the same skills as in business, such as planning, organization and forward-thinking.

Lies recalled that education was an important part of her family growing up. After her father died, her mother worked very hard to put Lies and her three siblings through Catholic grade and high schools.

What really motivates Lies, she said, is when she sees the moment a child has an “a-ha moment” and thinks “ ‘I can do this now.’ ”

Lies lives just a block away from the school on Newburg Road. She can sit on her porch and hear the church bells tolling.

“There’s not really a division of home, church or school,” she noted, a fact that she likes.

The long-time first grade teacher said she hopes she is able to build a community of learners that respect one other.

“I want to create risk-takers, to tell them it’s okay if they fail. I want them to know it matters to work hard and do your best.

“I want them to have the skills to listen and share with one another. And when things get hard I hope they are willing to admit it and turn to prayer to try to work at it,” she said.

The Catholic School Alumni banquet on March 18, at which Lies will receive her award, honors graduates of Catholic schools and raises funds for the Catholic Education Foundation.
The foundation provides scholarships to families in need and grants to schools. To learn more about the work the CEF does visit ceflou.org.

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One reply on “St. Agnes teacher named McGee winner”
  1. says: Beverly McAuliffe

    Martha Lies is an outstanding teacher and truly deserving of Fr. Joe McGee’s award! Fr. Joe valued teachers who were completely dedicated to their students and held them to high standards. Such is Martha Lies! I am proud to say I hired her to teach at St. Agnes School many years ago. Though I am not principal there now, I know she continues to be a truly committed, capable and loving teacher!

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