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Bishop’s Dinner award winners announced

Catholic Globe report

The 18th Annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools will not only celebrate diocesan schools, but will recognize those who contribute greatly to Catholic education.

Among the six to receive education awards at the Oct. 12 dinner at the Sioux City Convention Center are three teachers and three staff members of Catholic schools.

The three recipients of this year’s Excellence in Education Award are Sonja Petherbridge of St. Edmond Catholic Schools, Fort Dodge; Cathy Rupp of St. Mary Catholic School, Remsen and Pat Sitzman of Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools, Sioux City.

The Excellence in Education award is presented to individuals who are nominated by their peers and selected by a committee. Recipients must meet specific qualifications such as striving for academic excellence and promoting the mission of the school both on and off the job. Nominees must be employed within the Catholic school systems in the diocese for 10 years or more.

The three recipients of the Good Shepherd Award are Lisa Niebuhr of Gehlen Catholic Schools, Le Mars; Earl Schiltz of Kuemper Catholic Schools, Carroll and Wanda Rittgers of Pocahontas Catholic School.

The Good Shepherd award is presented to individuals who are nominated by their peers and selected by a committee. Recipients must meet specific qualifications such as going above the call of duty and demonstrating a true passion for their job. Nominees must be employed within the Catholic school systems in the diocese for a minimum of five years.

The Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools is the single, largest fundraiser held each year benefiting all 16 Catholic school systems throughout the Diocese of Sioux City. The featured speaker at this year’s dinner is former Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards. Tickets are now on sale at www.scdiocese.org.

Excellence in Education award

Sonja Petherbridge is a fourth grade teacher at St. Edmond Catholic Schools in Fort Dodge.
In her nomination letter for Petherbridge, St. Edmond Principal Linda Mitchell noted that Petherbridge has been with the school for 18 years.

“Her positive attitude and love of education and children are reflected in the outstanding quality of her 4th grade classroom,” she said. “Her enthusiasm, innovativeness, and dedication to education are exemplary.”

In addition to her teaching duties, Pethebridge is also heavily involved in her parish as she participates in bible studies, parish retreats and is a member of the Catholic Daughters of America. She is also active in her community through “Live Healthy Iowa” and volunteers with the Salvation Army.

Both Sonja and her husband, Don, have been recognized by St. Edmond Catholic Schools as recipients of the “Educare Award.” They are parents to Michael and Anne, both graduates of St. Edmond.

Cathy Rupp is a teacher at St. Mary Catholic School in Remsen.

In his nomination letter for Rupp, St. Mary Principal Pete Haefs noted that Rupp has been with the school for 38 years.

“Cathy has done an outstanding job forming relationships with her students and doing her utmost to assure they are learning as they should,” he wrote.

In addition to her teaching duties, Rupp is active in her parish by planning Mass liturgies and special events as well as participating in several committees.

Pat Sitzman is a teacher at Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City.

In his nomination letter for Sitzman, Bishop Heelan High School Principal Chris Bork noted that Sitzman has been with Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools for 42 years.

“Pat is a professional educator whose work ethic and organization shows in every task she takes on,” he wrote. “In the classroom, Pat does an excellent job of recognizing the ability of her students and instructing them to meet their individual needs.”

In addition to her teaching duties, Sitzman is active in her parish as a Eucharistic Minister and Lector. She frequently volunteers during the Christmas holidays at Goodwill Industries Children’s Shoe and Mitten Party.

Pat and her husband, Deacon Larry Sitzman (’65 Heelan), have five children who graduated Bishop Heelan: Scott Sitzman (’91), Robert Sitzman (’93), Michelle (Sitzman) Midthus (’96), Lisa Sitzman (’98) and Michael Sitzman (’00). They also have five grandchildren.

Good Shepherd award

Lisa Niebuhr is development director at Gehlen Catholic Schools in Le Mars.

In his nomination letter for Niebuhr, High School Principal Jeff Alesch noted Niebuhr has been with the school for 11 years in what was originally a part-time position.

“At a time when some schools are seeing a drop in enrollment, Gehlen Catholic School is seeing an increase,” he said. “This is a result of Lisa’s work and recruitment efforts.”

Elementary Principal Lorie Nussbaum noted that Niebuhr is active in other parts of the school as well.

“(She) still takes time to coach the award winning Gehlen Catholic School flag corps, working closely with her husband Paul (Gehlen Band Director) to support the fine arts programs,” she said. “Additionally, she is currently working to earn a master’s degree in leadership at Creighton University.”

Earl Schiltz is a principal at Kuemper Catholic Schools in Carroll.

In his nomination letter for Schiltz, Elementary Principal Ted Garringer noted Schiltz has been with the school for 45 years as either a teacher or principal.

“Earl’s enthusiasm, love, and passion for Catholic education and our students are second to none,” he said. “He has mastered the art of truly connecting with kids and his staff.”

In addition to his principal duties, Schlitz serves on several committees including Building and Grounds, Catholic Identity and the School Improvement Advisory Committee. He has also made several trips to Washington, D.C. with the eighth grade class.

Wanda Rittgers is a secretary at Pocahontas Catholic School.

In his nomination letter for Rittgers, Pocahontas Catholic School Principal Terry Eisenbarth noted that Rittgers has been with the school for 20 years.

“Wanda has often been referred to as the ‘glue’ that holds the school together,” he said. “Whether she is greeting students, staff, families or parishioners, she does so in a manner that demonstrates that she thoroughly enjoys working with people and assisting them with their wants and needs.”

Rittgers nomination packet sent to the diocese included letters of support from every student in the school.

In addition to her duties at the school, Rittgers is active in her parish as an usher and assisting with the Deanery Dinner each year.

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