Inaugural Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND Award recipient announced

This year’s Teresa Gerhardinger Award winner was long-time East Side Learning Center's (ESLC) Program Director and Site Coordinator, Sr.ister Sharon White, OSF. Explaining how she came to work with the ESLC, Sisterr. Sharon reflected on the story of her father. “I was drawn to the work and mission of the ESLC because of my dad. He struggled with reading all his life and frequently talked about his elementary school days with no place to turn for help. He instilled in me and my siblings the importance of reading and what a powerful tool reading is in life.”

ESLC Executive Director Chris Flippo described Sr. Sharon's work as having a major impact on the organization at East Side Learning Center's Super Hero Celebration held April 27, 2018.

Sr Sharon White WebFlippo said, “Mother Theresa Gerharding started schools for poor children and girls in the 1800s when leaders believed that girls and the poor should not go to school or learn to read and write. ESLC would not be here without the service of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSNDs) who founded ESLC to carry on the mission of Gerhardinger. ESLC would not be where it is without women like Sr. Sharon.”

Looking at her own life today, Sr. Sharon has boundless enthusiasm for the ESLC. “This is a place where miracles happen—we grow readers…we unlock potential…we touch the future! I am so grateful and blessed to be here!”

Through her example of compassion and caring, Sr. Sharon has created an environment and community that reflects genuine kindness and concern for each member of the ESLC. She is an inspiration to each of us to live the mission of the ESLC, while giving life to the words and wisdom of Theresa Gerhardinger.

The ESLC is proud to recognize Sr. Sharon. Her dedication embodies our mission of striving to improve the lives of St. Paul children through teaching them the joys of reading while building a solid foundation.

The following individuals were also nominated because their work, attitude, and spirit also honor the SSND tradition of service: Nominees included: Alyssa Hamel, Sr. Rita Jirik, SSND, Cindy Mullan, Lizz Paulson, and Sr. Jane Thibault, SSND.

ESLC Executive Director Chris Flippo explained why this award is given. “ESLC was founded by the SSNDs, in response to a request by community and business leaders in 2001.” Gerhardinger's legacy lives on through the educational endeavors of the SSNDs. East Side Learning Center was founded by and continues to receive significant support from the SSND Central Pacific Province in the form both income and personnel. As one of its strategic goals, the Board of Directors set a goal to ensure the SSND values of education, welcoming all persons, and unity are incorporated into the fabric of ESLC. This award honors that legacy and those individuals who represent the values of the SSNDs. 

2018 Theresa Gerhardinger SSND Award Nominees

Alyssa Hamel

I nominate Alyssa Hamel for her patience and calmness when working with the children. Nothing rattles her! She has many creative ideas to serve as many children as possible with limited resources.

Sr. Rita Jirik, SSND

Sister Rita exemplifies the qualities of a servant leader. Sister Rita goes above and beyond to develop individual lesson plans for her scholars to meet their goals. Overall, I see her determination to embody her love and compassion for the scholars. She is always patient, welcoming, and serves in ways that go above and beyond. 

Cindy Mullan

I nominate Cindy Mullan for serving as a tutor, serving on the Board of Directors for six years, including the demanding role of communications committee chair person. For the past several years, she also wrote grants and helped with various fundraising activities. She taught me (Chris Flippo) so much about effective grant writing and ensured nothing dropped through the tracks in the leadership transition. Finally, she has been providing us with support as a volunteer on a big technical project we are working on to improve our fundraising and data management efficiency.  

Lizz Paulson

I nominate Lizz Paulson to be considered for the Theresa Gerhardingher, SSND Award because she wants what is best for each student and will find the necessary means to unlock each students potential. She does this by finding new ways to enhance the lessons, especially culturally for the students aswell as finding each students learning style and building upon that. Lizz not only supports the learning of the students, but also the learning of her fellow tutors with information about techniques and strategies to better engage students in the learning process. 

Sr. Jane Thibault, SSND

I nominate Sister Jane Thibault to be considered for the Theresa Gerhardingher, SSND Award because she keeps the mission of the Notre Dame Sisters front and center in all that she does. She has deep and genuine respect for all persons and things, promotes a climate of welcome and inclusion, invests herself for the common good, and helps out whenever and wherever there is a need. She breathes life into the ESLC mission of “unlocking each child’s potential through the foundation of learning” by taking children where they are, and patiently supporting them in all of their literacy endeavors. Her dedication, service and deep faith are to be admired and celebrated.

Sr. Sharon White, OSF (3 nominations)

I nominate Sr. Sharon White to be considered for this award because, in her roles as Program Director and Site-Coordinator at CPA, she has been a clear and effective model and leader in faithfulness to ESLC’s mission, instructional philosophy, and core values.

Through her professional reading and opportunities provided by technology, attendance at workshops and seminars, and networking with other professionals, she keeps current on best practices in literacy instruction. Sister Sharon readily shares her knowledge and experience with staff and volunteers in personal conversations, in formal presentations, and in the materials she incorporates into the curriculum.

Through example and intentional effort, Sr. Sharon strives to create an ever-expanding environment of diversity, equity, and inclusiveness and to support a unified community that reflects a genuine care and concern for each member and this organization. Her organization of tutoring space and storage areas as well as her care of instructional materials and supplemental resources reflect a deep sense of accountability and good stewardship.

Sr. Sharon is very attentive to spending wisely and works hard to find great bargains or to select alternative ways to meet our needs within the allotted budget. In and inspirational reflections woven into our gatherings for both work and celebration, She has given life and meaning to the words and wisdom of Mother Theresa Gerhardinger.

She is always mindful and careful about what she says, no matter how challenging a situation appears to be. As the Director of Programs at ESLC, Sr. Sharon ensures that everything we do is for the children we serve. Her sole focus is the children and their needs. She always makes staff, tutors and volunteers feel welcome. She goes out of her way to encourage others so they know they are doing a good job in their roles.

 By Kathryn Schleich