Union: US – St. Norbert’s School Honors Tawnya Rider with Nano Nagle Award

The Nano Nagle Award is presented annually to one teacher at St. Norbert’s Elementary School who embodies the life and characteristics of our foundress. It is the students, K-8, who nominate a teacher to receive the award. Principal Joe Ciccoianni shared several comments from some of students who nominated Mrs. Ryder:

  • She knows how to be a team player and how to give great advice when there is something troubling us. Every time she teaches, she teaches from the heart, and I think that is really important for a teacher to understand and to devote themselves for the sake of our future.
  • Rider is always looking on the bright side. Every Monday she sends out an email saying that she is praying for everyone and that everything will get better.
  • One way Mrs. Rider shows the virtue of hope is because she never stops believing in the kids she teaches. Part of the virtue of hope is trusting and believing in not only God, but the people around you. Whenever Mrs. Rider is helping a student at St. Norbert, she never gives up on them and has true faith in their abilities and talents. She never fails to be the best teacher and human being she could possibly be to the students that look up to her. She will never leave a student hanging and will uplift them until they succeed. I think that Mrs. Rider is doing this because she strongly believes that God called her to be a teacher for a purpose, and that purpose is to help kids know about Jesus and his teachings, just like Nano Nagle did. Mrs. Rider is willing to do whatever God calls her to do, which is what the virtue of hope is all about.

When Tawnya was invited to share what receiving the 2020 award meant to her, she wrote,
“When I first was called to Saint Norbert Catholic School, I knew very little about Nano Nagle or her ministry.  Over the past three years, I have not only become familiar with her, but come to look up to her as a woman of compassion, strength, perseverance, and hope.  Now, when I see a lantern when I am out and about, I am reminded of her overwhelming need to reach out to those in need, whether it be the young who just wanted to learn about Catholicism, or going to the sick and elderly into the evening, or starting convents for other women to come together to help those in need.  She was a true example of what a follower of Jesus should be.

Teachers of Catholic schools are called to serve by teaching the students of their community not just the curriculum required, but about their faith and how to be a child of God, just as Nano Nagle did.  They are asked to give of their time, talents, and treasures every day in order to accomplish this goal.  The hope is, at the end of the day, that even if the students do not remember all of the Native American tribes that inhabited the Americas prior to colonization, or understand yet how to add decimals, or know what the theme of the story they are reading is, that they come home knowing the importance of work ethic, and having experienced God’s love in a safe place.  It is our mission to set that example for them so that the students emulate it in and out of the classroom.

In previous years, I have seen my colleagues and friends win the esteemed Nano Nagle Award and thought how deserving they were of the award as I see all of the amazing character traits that they have that mirror those of Nano Nagle.  I took great joy in knowing that the students saw it as much as I did.  In fact, it was my favorite tradition at the school, at times even bringing tears to my eyes, to hear all of the positive things the students had to say about their teachers during graduation, and then seeing what the students have said about me.  It is affirmation that we are reaching the students and are successful in showing them the love that we feel for them and God that we know we feel inside.  

This past year it has been especially important and challenging to find ways to continue to reach the students and be a role model for them.  The virtue of the school year was hope and it seemed very appropriate given the circumstances.  We were all looking for hope to hold on to and things to cheer us up.  When the students were asked to nominate a teacher that displayed Nano Nagle’s hope and cheerfulness, I looked at my coworkers and immediately recognized their efforts to find new ways to bring those things to their students.  At graduation, when Mr. Ciccoianni read off the beautiful things the students had said about this year’s winner, I again held back tears, and several other teachers came to mind as being the potential winners of the award.  When he said that this year’s winner was me, I sat in shock, genuinely not comprehending that he had just said my name.  I am delighted that in this weird, chaotic time, my students saw that I wouldn’t give up on them, and am thrilled knowing that I brought them a little bit of joy and hope.  I am still overwhelmed by the kind responses of the students and honored to be compared to such an exemplary woman.  I hope that in the years to come, I am able to continue to learn more about Nano Nagle, and that I persevere in showing my students God’s love and the importance of service to others, just as she did.  

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this wonderful experience with you.”