By Adrianne Hutto, Production Editor
Sister Remigia Kushner and Sister Mary Ann Jacobs were awarded for their work as Catholic educators. Kushner, the education department chairperson, graduate director and professor, was given the 2022 Lighting the Fire for Catholic Education Award from the Catholic School Administrators Association of New York State.
Kushner has been teaching at Manhattan College since 1990 and explains that she had not always intended to be an educator but that teaching found her.
“When I went to high school, the building that is the Motherhouse for the group of Sisters I belong to would take the high school kids downstairs to the gym, and they would bring the sisters down who were just signed up to belong to the community,” Kushner said. “I never met such a happy group of people and I thought to myself, I have to get me some of that. And sure enough I did, and I haven’t been sorry a day, really and truly.”
Kushner explains that her work as graduate director has allowed her to work with amazing students studying to be school-building leaders. This has given her the opportunity to watch as students flourish in higher education. Those, to her, are the moments that make being an educator so important.
“When COVID hit, everybody was worried about the students and the teachers,” Kushner said. “But these two folks in the Advanced Leadership Studies program, Amber and Reina, put something together to help parents. Nobody else was working with the parents and they put together an absolutely wonderful program. They’ve been using it all over New York State. It’s just a marvel, the contribution that our students make when they do their work. So that’s the best thing.”
Jacobs, an adjunct professor of education at Manhattan College for 29 years and full time professor for 12 years, was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi, NJ, for her dedication to Catholic education. Jacobs has served on the high school’s Board of Trustees for over 10 years, in addition to being a founder and active member of the Academic Excellence Committee and serving as a presenter of professional development for the faculty and staff.
While Jacobs did not attend the high school, she received her undergraduate degree in education from Felician University, where the high school students partake in an early college program. She explained that the award is granted to those who do community and education service for the school with the intention of serving others.
“I see the school as an outgrowth of our own mission in reaching out particularly to those in need,” Jacobs said. “They’re very committed to that as a school, their commitment to the needs of others, particularly through social justice and it ties into what we do here at Manhattan. So, it all comes together for me.”
Jacobs explains that it is a privilege to be able to help students to become future educators. “My own mission and truly the mission of our School Building Leadership Program is to provide more learning opportunities for more students,” Jacobs said. “So, being able to serve in a school like Immaculate Conception is a privilege. I work every day in helping our adolescent educators to become future teachers.”
Jacobs gave a brief acceptance speech when she received the award. “It is a great grace that God should permit us to assist in the spread of his kingdom,” Jacobs said in her speech. “These are the words of Pauline von Mallinckrodt, the founder of my community – the Sisters of Christian Charity. How similar are the words of Blessed Mary Angela: You dear Lord, have singled me out… as she described her conversion so that in all and by all, God may be known, loved and glorified. What an awesome calling, and an incredible life for both of these women. What a legacy this is for our Immaculate Conception young ladies – past, present and future – called to be strong, confident, self-reliant, humble, generous, loving, God-centered women who change the course of history every day.”
Their recognition for receiving these awards comes prior to Catholic Schools week, which honors Catholic education in the United States.
Brother Daniel Gardner, FSC, president of Manhattan College, shared his sentiments towards Kushner and Jacobs and their dedication to Catholic education.
“Sister Remigia Kushner and Sister Mary Ann Jacobs have dedicated their careers to supporting Catholic education both at Manhattan College and throughout the Tri-State area,” Gardner said. “The awards they received are well deserved and a reflection of their commitment to the generations of students that have been fortunate enough to benefit from their leadership and wisdom.”
Both women encourage students to thank a teacher or educator in their life. Kushner emphasizes this by making a connection to the gospel from the previous Sunday.
“The three kings went to follow the star and at the end of their trip, there was the revelation,” Kushner said. “And I think to myself, ‘you know what, teachers are constantly on that trip, and they don’t get the revelation. They just get the journey and it’s when you and your colleagues graduate and you take your place in the world, that’s the revelation.’ The good that our work does as teachers, I think it’s a beautiful thing and if you have the opportunity ever to say thanks to a teacher, I think it’s wonderful, because you wouldn’t be here if somebody didn’t teach you to read and help you know how to navigate some of the problems you have to go through in school.”