The chant was loud and heartfelt. “Mis-ter D, Mis-ter D, Mis-ter D,” was repeated by students and educators alike inside classroom 115 at Cardinal Gibbons High School March 10.
While everyone in the room seemed to have something to say or share, one person found himself a little speechless.
As he listened to the cheers, Mark DeLaRosa, 53, was still processing the news that he was the recipient of 2016-2017 Lewis Award for Excellence in Teaching. “Thank you, everybody,” he said. “I love my classes … all of you. And if anyone thought I would get [the award], it wasn’t my thought.”
Mr. DeLaRosa, a theology educator at Gibbons, was surprised by a balloon bouquet from the Lewis Award Committee. His wife, Carol, was present to give him the bouquet and offer him a hug and congratulations.
Principal Jason Curtis and Joan Troy, an educator and former Lewis Award recipient, joined other educators and students in wishing him well.
“He puts his whole heart and soul into teaching,” Mrs. DeLaRosa said of her husband, with whom she just celebrated a 30-year anniversary.
Student Gabriella Ercolino, a freshman in his class, had heard good things about his class before she even arrived at Gibbons. “I knew he was great,” she said. “In this classroom … I feel like I know everyone, and we all connect. [This award] is very suiting. He interacts with us and lets us work as teams so we interact with all our classmates, too.”
Those exchanges begin at the start of each class he teaches as the students stand in a circle, link elbows and pray together. Following the announcement, most of the prayers offered in the prayer circle were thankfulness for Mr. DeLaRosa.
Mr. DeLaRosa incorporates things such as Lenten prayer buddies into his classes, a project where each student has a student in the class to pray for and encourage. Prayer buddies do kind things for each other, including prayers and notes. “We respect others’ fasting during Lent, so we don’t give food as treats … and buddies are revealed during Holy Week,” he said.
The Lewis Award for Excellence in Teaching was initiated in 1992 to honor outstanding educators in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Raleigh and to recognize, promote and encourage teaching excellence.
Mr. DeLaRosa, who graduated from St. John’s University in Minnesota and earned a master’s degree at Duke University, is the 25th teacher to receive the award. He’s the fourth teacher from Gibbons to earn the honor.
Mr. DeLaRosa will be honored with the official award during a special Mass celebrated at his school next month.
Learn more about the Lewis Award.
Read about the award’s founder, Anne Stahel.