Lewis Award announces three finalists

The Lewis Award Committee recently announced its three finalists for the 2022-2023 Excellence in Teaching honor. The committee chose Barbara Dobner (above, left) of The Franciscan School in Raleigh, Renee Mary Eltz (center) of St. Mary School in Goldsboro and Kimberly Wheeler (right) of Cathedral School in Raleigh.

Barbara Dobner, The Franciscan School, Raleigh

Dobner is a kindergarten teacher who has worked in the Diocese of Raleigh for 27 years. She previously shared her gifts at the preschool, 2nd grade and 1st grade levels. Outside of school, she’s a volunteer at her parish, St. Luke, and is a member of the Raleigh Wake Reading Association.

“What makes Barb unique is that she is constantly willing to listen and try new approaches and ideas. She has been instrumental in rebuilding a Kindergarten Team,” said DawnMarie Smith, principal at the school. “She has an ongoing influence with her prior students. On the last day of school … there’s a steady line to bid Mrs. Dobner a farewell.”

Renee Mary Eltz, St. Mary School, Goldsboro

Eltz is a middle school math teacher who joined the team at St. Mary in 2011. Before that she worked in schools in Florida and Texas. A third-generation teacher in her family, Eltz arrived in North Carolina because of her husband’s career in the Air Force. She completed licensure and a master’s degree here, but principal Lynn Magoon will tell you she first hired Eltz because she “just seemed like a natural.”

At school Eltz is known for gentle leadership and taking on needed tasks, such as data analysis. “When we went through reaccreditation last year, she took a leadership role, and her assistance was vital in the success of our self-study and report,” Magoon said. “She is a wonderful teacher and friend.”

Kimberly Wheeler, Cathedral School, Raleigh

Wheeler is a 5th grade teacher at Cathedral; she first joined the community in 2007 as a teacher assistant and, later, earned her licensure and began teaching core subjects in the classroom.

According to principal Peggy Lane, part of Wheeler’s strength is offering creative, project-based learning to her students. She’s also a trained mentor in the diocese, who helps to support beginning teachers. 

“She honestly encapsulates our faith in all that she does whether in her vocation as a Catholic School teacher and how she lives her life and dedicates her life to the Catholic faith outside of our school,” Lane said. “Her family attends and serves as a host family at Heart Ridge Ministries Summer Family Catholic Camp. I think that is something unique, especially since it includes her family unit.”