Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis’ College of Education, in partnership with the Diocese of Joliet, hosted its annual Breakfast with the Bishop on Thursday, Jan. 16. The event, celebrated as part of Catholic Schools Week 2020, welcomed student representatives from each of the 54 Joliet Diocesan schools and included a prayer service and a special message from Diocese of Joliet Superintendent of Schools Rev. John Belmonte, S.J. 

Each year, the event culminates with a presentation ceremony for the Bishop’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, awarded by the University of St. Francis to an outstanding Catholic school teacher from the Joliet Diocese who demonstrates excellence in teaching; is recognized as a Christian role model among students, faculty, and administration; and serves the educational community by sharing time and talents for the greater good. This year’s award was presented to St. Raphael Catholic School (Naperville) first grade teacher Nicole Lacy.

“Nicole has a selfless devotion to her students, staff, and families at St. Raphael School. In her classroom, each child is viewed as an individual, receiving instruction that is tailored to their needs academically, spiritually, socially as well as emotionally. Her ability to assess students and provide for their development is exemplary,” St. Raphael Catholic School Principal Mavis DeMar said of Lacy in her nomination letter.

“Nicole also devotes her time to St. Raphael Church. She serves as a Eucharistic Minister, provides food for the funeral luncheon ministry, sings in the choir, and tends to the candles in the chapel. Nicole does all of these things willingly, while touching people’s hearts with her fine work ethic and profound love for the church and her students, which is what makes her stand out,” DeMar added.

John Gambro, Ed.D., Dean of USF’s College of Education, enjoys that the event is an opportunity to celebrate the work of educators within the local Catholic school community.

“The Breakfast with the Bishop event is a wonderful opportunity for us to recognize and celebrate the outstanding work that takes place on our diocesan schools.  To gather with student and parent representatives from every school in the diocese is a unique experience and it always demonstrates the tremendous impact that our schools have on student learning and spiritual development. In addition, we appreciate the opportunity to honor some of the exemplary Catholic school teachers within the Joliet Diocese, and we are able to do that with the Bishop’s Award for Excellence in Teaching,” Gambro said.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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