Ticket Sales Close Friday, August 12!

by Diocese of Des Moines | July 1, 2022

Ad for Celebration of Catholic Schools

Ticket sales close Friday, August 12. Join us as we celebrate the life-changing impact our faith-centered education has provided for more than 120 years. This annual event recognizes special honorees, educators, administrators, and volunteers for their impact on our Catholic schools. Become an event sponsor and/or join us on Saturday, August 27, 2022 at St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianola! Get your tickets now! 

Event Details:

4:30 PM Mass in the St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianola Sanctuary

5:30 PM Social Hour in the St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianola Great Hall

6:30 PM Dinner and Awards Ceremony in the St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianola Great Hall

Business Casual Attire.

The Diocese of Des Moines announced it will honor six educators, administrators and volunteers for their exceptional service to Catholic education during the inaugural Bishop's Celebration of Catholic Schools on Aug. 27 in Indianola.

This event unites the entire diocesan community in celebration of the life-changing impact our faith-centered education has provided for more than 120 years. 

Three honorees from the Des Moines metro and three honorees from the rural and Council Bluffs community were selected for this award out of nearly 70 nominations. Honorees were selected based on their demonstrated impact on the diocesan Catholic schools and their commitment to faith, academic excellence, and fostering a vibrant school community.

This year's honorees include the following.

Administrator of the Year - Des Moines Metro

Jennifer Raes, St. Anthony Catholic Schoolnull

Jennifer Raes is the administrator at St. Anthony Catholic School. For over 100 years, St. Anthony Catholic School has provided an exceptional learning environment to students in grades PK-8 that values faith, service, community, and education.

In 2010, the school enhanced its learning environment to include Two Way Language Immersion and biliteracy development. St. Anthony offers an innovative education through its TWI education track that could benefit many students and families throughout the Des Moines region.

"I love to walk the halls and enter the classrooms hearing Spanish and English spoken – what a gift to all of us," Raes said.

She grew up in Urbandale and is the product of Catholic education having attended St. Pius X Catholic School and Dowling Catholic High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in Education with a middle school endorsement and a minor in mathematics from the University of Northern Iowa. Raes also earned an endorsement in coaching from Drake University. She continued her education and earned a master's degree in Educational Leadership from St. Ambrose University in 2003.

Her career in education began at St. Pius X Catholic School where she served as a middle school math teacher for 20 years and as an assistant principal for three years. She spent six years as the assistant principal at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School before joining the team at St. Anthony Catholic School in 2018.

"Jennifer models faith in action through her passionate leadership as principal of St Anthony's," said Sheila Thurston, St. Anthony parent. "She engages effectively with teachers and inspires students. She has built a growing, thriving school community based on Christ's love for each of us."

Raes is the proud mother of two sons, Conner and Sam, who also attended both St. Pius X Catholic School and Dowling Catholic High School. When she's not at work, her favorite activities include time with family, volunteering with A Heinz, playing with the family dogs, reading and watching sports.

Administrator of the Year - Rural

Jennifer Simmons, St. Malachy Catholic School, Crestonnull

Jennifer Simmons is the administrator at St. Malachy Catholic School in Creston.

With more than 20 years experience in education, Simmons earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University and a master's degree in Educational Leadership from Viterbo University.

A life-long learner, she aspires to someday earn a doctorate in Education. Her journey as an educational leader began in 1999 when she taught fourth grade in Liberty, Missouri. Prior to moving to Creston, Simmons spent 14 years in Des Moines at St. Joseph Catholic School teaching middle school math and science, and serving as assistant to the principal.

"Catholic schools are a very special place to work and St. Malachy is a huge piece of the Creston community puzzle," shared Simmons. "We provide students with great opportunities to learn about God and to take care of our community. Our amazing teachers provide our students with a wonderful education where we try our best to reach the needs of all our learners."

Simmons is a scientist at heart and has made STEM education a priority for St. Malachy Catholic School. Under her leadership, technology was integrated across the school from registration to lunch counts to the classroom. Today, the school boasts a 1:1 student-to-device initiative and robust STEM programming where students in all grades have the opportunity to explore problem-solving and critical thinking using the latest technologies.

"Mrs. Simmons goes above and beyond what a principal should be," said Michelle Wagner, St. Malachy parent. "She spends countless hours outside of the school day making sure the school is the best faith and educational location it can be. She plays a strong role in the community and continues to grow the school as the best in the area."

When she isn't at St. Malachy School you can find Simmons sewing, spending time with her family, and traveling with her husband, Chad, and children Haley and Caden.

Teacher of the Year - Des Moines Metronull

Cyndi Hofmeister, Christ the King Catholic School

Cyndi Hofmeister earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master of Education degree in Teacher Leadership, Curriculum, and Instruction from Buena Vista University.

Hofmeister is the product of Catholic education, having attended Catholic schools from kindergarten to graduation. Her commitment to Catholic education is evident in her efforts to provide opportunities for her students to learn and grow while recognizing their value as God's creation.

"It is important to realize that every student learns differently and our jobs as teachers are to access their strengths to help them be successful and well-rounded human beings," shared Hofmeister. "Education is more than academic skills, it is also behavioral skills, skills that can take them into the future. We are here to create thinkers who can think for themselves, defend their thinking, and be open to other opinions."

With more than a decade in education, Hofmeister has taught middle school religion and social studies at Christ the King since 2013. During her time at Christ the King, she participated in the Leader in Me Program, coached track, created the annual yearbook, and partnered with St. Anthony Catholic School to take student groups to Washington, D.C. to learn about our government.

"She is a phenomenal teacher of social studies and theology, and she does so much more. She plans the Masses, creates the yearbook, moderates our middle school leadership groups, and much more. She is so very deserving of this honor, and she will forever be recognized as the first recipient of this annual award," said Daniel Thole, former Christ the King School administrator.

"Cyndi is an example to her students in every interaction with them. She treats them with kindness, empathy and compassion. She models treating others as you would want to be treated," said Renee Vuper, Christ the King parent.

When she isn't inspiring students in the classroom, Hofmeister can be found reading a good book, working out, spending time with her family and friends, listening to the latest true crime podcast, or enjoying her favorite sporting events.

Teacher of the Year - Ruralnull

Amy Smith, St. Patrick Catholic School, Perry

Amy Smith earned her bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education with a Special Education endorsement from Indiana University.

She has taught first grade at St. Patrick Catholic School in Perry for the last four years.

She’s known for her passion for Catholic education coupled with the value she places on students' backgrounds, interests, and familial values.

"I choose to teach in a Catholic school because my entire heart is Catholic education. I desire to answer God’s call to make disciples with every class I encounter. Although my students are young, the depth of their faith and their desire to know Christ is astounding," said Smith. "By choosing to teach in a Catholic school, I can directly take part in fostering their love of Jesus. We are able to read Scripture, frequent the sacraments, and call upon Jesus daily in a way that would not be possible in public education."

In an effort to enhance her ability to reach and teach her school's growing English Learner population, Smith recently attended the English as a New Language program at the University of Notre Dame. Her experience with the ENL program at Notre Dame is her proudest accomplishment to date in her educational career.

Through her experience with the ENL program, Smith integrates experiential activities that help students practice the language in each subject. Together as a class, they read, write, listen, and speak daily in multiple ways. Smith also altered her classroom bulletin board to include each subject, complete with the content objective for the day, the language objective, important vocabulary words, and examples of student work. Students reference these boards often throughout the day to help them engage with the lesson and see what they will learn that day.

"She [Amy] is constantly engaging students in a variety of art projects, encouraging a love of reading, and helping students grow academically. I looked forward to having my son in her class because I have always admired the way she so calmly and lovingly teaches children," said Mindy Farmer, a St. Patrick parent. "Students blossom under her care academically, personally, and spiritually.”

Outside of the classroom, Smith and her husband Chris enjoy road trips, especially to visit her family back in Indiana. She also enjoys movies, good books, hiking, and spending time with her nine nieces and nephews.

Volunteer of the Year - Des Moines Metro

Janet Peter, St. Theresa Catholic Schoolnull

For over 13 years, Janet Peter has volunteered at St. Theresa Catholic School nearly every weekday.

Whether it's reading to the school's youngest learners, organizing the lost and found bin, or helping out in the front office, Peter serves with a generosity of spirit and kindness to all. Her strong personal commitment to meeting the needs of the school and its students has made a lasting impact on the entire St. Theresa community. 

"Janet has a true servant's heart. She makes herself available to the staff to help wherever needed," said Elaine Oursler, a St. Theresa staff member. "She will clean the teacher's lounge first thing each morning and even helped to take student temperatures each morning throughout the pandemic, even before vaccines were available."

Peter and her husband are members of St. Theresa Parish where the couple attends Mass every week. Well-known and loved by those in the St. Theresa community, Peter openly talks about God and inspires others to servant leadership by sharing her Catholic faith.

"She [Janet] is dedicated to helping anyone in need. Janet does all the "little things" around school that others don't notice," said Mary Baker, a St. Theresa staff member. "She is our very own St Theresa."

Volunteer of the Year - Rural


Nancy Kilbride, Saint Albert Catholic

Nancy Kilbride has been a steadfast volunteer at St. Albert Catholic for decades.

She served as a RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) sponsor and team member for three years with her late husband, John.

Together, Kilbride and her husband were founding members of the St. Albert Ambassadors program in 2002, acting as chair couple for five years. They also hosted the Bishop’s dinner for the St. Albert Benefit Auction for 10 years.

            Kilbride sat on the Board of Education for the Diocese of Des Moines for nearly a decade and her family established the John and Nancy Kilbride Science Scholarship, which awards a St. Albert student interested in science a $1,800 tuition scholarship annually.

In her continued efforts to support the school, she frequently volunteers her time in the school's Business Office.

            "Nancy exemplifies the dedication needed to keep our Catholic schools alive and thriving. She has championed St. Albert Catholic for decades," said Anne Rohling, the school’s  president. "Her presence in the school, volunteering at many, many functions, is an inspiration for all of us. We truly admire her deep faith in the Catholic religion, her ability to serve others and her desire to serve Saint Albert. Personally, since I took the role of president she has been of tremendous support, and I am forever grateful."



Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.