Naples teacher recognized with state Hispanic Heritage Award

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Spanish Teacher Fabiola Galarraga-Cole is one of only four teachers in the State of Florida to be honored with the 2023 Florida Hispanic Heritage Excellence in Education Award.

Cole has been at St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples since 2017 and teaches weekly Spanish classes to students in Grades Pre-Kindergarten-8. In addition to her teaching role, she organizes events like the Latin Zumba Fiesta and Student Talent Show, and serves as Yearbook and Spanish Club Advisor, while also directing the school’s musical productions.

“I was surprised and honored to be selected for this award!” Cole said. “It is such a privilege to represent St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and my Hispanic heritage. Receiving this special award from the Governor of Florida and visiting the Governor’s mansion was an amazing and unforgettable experience for my family and myself. My heart is full of gratitude to God, the generous sponsors, and all those who nominated me.”

Seton Principal Maria Niebuhr said, “We are proud that our very own Senorita Cole was recognized as one of only four in the state of Florida for this award. She is so deserving as you will find her in and out of the classroom displaying excellence. Senorita Cole gives 100% and we are blessed to have her as part of our school family.”

The Hispanic Heritage Excellence in Education Award winners were selected from nominations sent in by principals, teachers, parents or guardians, and students.

The award was presented to Cole by Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis during a reception at the Florida Governor’s Mansion on Oct. 10, 2023, with her family in attendance. In recognition for her achievement, she was also awarded $2,500 from Volunteer Florida.

Cole holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from John Carroll University and a Master of Education specializing in Latin America and International Studies. She is a distinguished member of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Spanish Honor Society.

With 14 years of experience in Catholic education, Cole firmly believes in the value of Catholic schools, particularly highlighting St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School for its nurturing, family-oriented environment that combines Catholic values and traditions with academic excellence, fostering students’ spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social growth.

This recognition reflects Cole’s commitment to education and her remarkable contributions to her students and the community.

Religious sister retires after 57 years teaching

Sister Maureen G. Carroll, Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, served her last day as a teacher on May 26, 2023, ending a 57-year career, 34 of those at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples.

Sister Maureen is a very quiet and unassuming woman whose presence and energy is seen in everything she does. Described by many as a an “anchor” at St. Ann, Sister is known as someone who is “a good friend that cares about everyone.”

According to Sister Maureen, her greatest joy has been to lead the children to Jesus through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

Generations of young children, mostly second grade students at St. Ann, were formed in their love for Christ by Sister Maureen performing her duties with gentleness and love.

A presence during the school Masses and on Sundays, serving as a Eucharistic Minister or assisting in various ways throughout the years, Sister Maureen quietly performed her tasks without complaint and guided by Christ.

St. Ann Principal Michael Buskirk expressed sadness over the retirement of Sister Maureen saying that she has been an important part of the school for many decades and replacing her was an impossible task.

“Sister Maureen, we thank you for sharing the gift of your strength and gentleness! May God bless you!” Buskirk said.

In honor of Sister Maureen’s service, the people of St. Ann’s dedicated a pew in her name with her own words on it: “You are all precious in the sight of God and I will carry you all in my heart always.” The pew was decorated with artwork that include a garden and beach scene with images of Sister, students, her cat, and various wildlife.

The pew was presented to Sister Maureen during a retirement reception. Present were current and past students and teachers, grateful parents, as well as several Missionary Sisters. This gathering allowed admirers time to honor Sister ahead of the chaos of the end of another school year.

Born in Ridgewood, New York, Sister Maureen was received as a candidate with the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1960. She took her first profession on June 30, 1962, and Final Profession on Aug. 22, 1967.

Sister earned a degree in elementary education from Cabrini College, in Radnor, Pennsylvania. She taught in Catholic schools, grades 1-4, in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Illinois before 1989, settling in for the next 34 years at St. Ann Catholic School. The rest is history.

In her spare time, Sister Maureen likes to fish, walk the beach, eat chocolate, travel as well as spending time with friends and family.

In noting her retirement, the Missionary Sisters congratulated Sister Maureen on “her faithful, loving service which is true to their charism as Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – “Being graced by the Love of Christ, we the Missionary Sisters of the most Sacred Heart are called to respond to His love and to make that love present to everyone.”