CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Golden Apple Award winning teacher Christina Harrington teaches a math lesson in her classroom. Harrington is one of 10 local Catholic school teachers to receive the award this year.
CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Golden Apple Award winning teacher Christina Harrington teaches a math lesson in her classroom. Harrington is one of 10 local Catholic school teachers to receive the award this year.

Maria Bovich, the principal at Holy Redeemer School in College Park, calls their fourth grade teacher, Christina Harrington, “my unsung hero.”

But maybe that label won’t apply anymore, after the Archdiocese of Washington recently announced that Harrington will be one of 10 local Catholic school teachers to receive Golden Apple Awards for teaching excellence.

Harrington began teaching at Holy Redeemer School nearly 25 years ago, in her first teaching job after graduating from St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s City, and she has been at home there ever since.

“The community is amazing – the kids, the families, my colleagues,” she said. “They’ve all been supportive,” she added, characterizing them as “good people.”

She teaches math, science, reading and spelling to fourth graders there, and math and science to fifth graders. The veteran fourth grade teacher said, “It’s a great age. They’re old enough and independent enough to do a lot of things on their own.” And she likes their curiosity. “In fourth grade, they have a million questions.”

Harrington used last fall’s visit to Washington by Pope Francis as an opportunity to talk about what makes him a role model, as students at her school made pledges to “Walk with Francis” by praying for, acting on behalf of, and serving those in need.

“They’re incredibly special,” Harrington said of her students. “Each class is different. Each child brings his or her own personality and different strengths and needs.”

Teaching in a Catholic school gives her the opportunity to encourage children “to learn to live as Jesus did. That’s the goal,” she said.

Her principal praised Harrington, saying, “Chris isn’t a talker. She’s a doer. She has a quiet leadership about her. She leads by example.” Bovich said the school’s newly named Golden Apple Award winner comes in each school year “with something she’s excited about, that’s new and she created over the summer… It’s all fresh and new for each year she teaches these kids.”

The walls of Harrington’s classroom and the hallway just outside her door reflect her creative approach to teaching. On a table in the hall are displayed her fifth graders’ models of the International Space Station, and on the wall, students for Pi Day graphed the numbers in the formula for Pi and created colorful city skylines.

Students’ flip books that they created about the doomed luxury liner Titanic are displayed on a wall, beside information about glaciers. A nearby display shows the water cycle of condensation, precipitation and evaporation, and another wall shows a Math Boggle game, based on the popular word game, but with random numbers that children quickly try to connect to add up to 1,000.

Her students participate in science experiments every Tuesday, which this year included using frozen sandpaper rubbing sand and rocks over bricks to simulate the erosion on land caused by moving ice, and another project with hard-boiled eggs to demonstrate how ore is mined, by quickly and carefully getting through the shell and egg white while doing the least possible damage to the egg, which represents the land. Her students built jetties out of rocks in a pan of water with sand, to measure the effects of erosion, and they also dropped marbles and rocks on sand to measure the depth and width of the craters that resulted.

Faith and family have always been part of the fabric of Harrington’s life. She is the daughter of JoAnn and the late Norman McCarthy and grew up at St. Hugh’s Parish in Greenbelt with two sisters and a brother. She and her husband Dan have a son Joe who is an eighth grader at Holy Redeemer School, and a daughter Natalie who is a junior at Severna Park High School.

Harrington’s dad served as a longtime managing editor and reporter for the Catholic Standard newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, and his career highlights included reporting on St. John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Washington. “My dad dragged us everywhere,” she said, smiling and remembering her family’s occasional excursions to places like St. Clement’s Island in Southern Maryland, to accompany their dad on his reporting adventures. She said his attitude was always, “let’s see what we can learn from this.”

Now Harrington herself takes her fourth graders on field trips to St. Mary’s City, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Maryland Science Center, and she has taken fifth graders to Philadelphia to visit the Franklin Institute and the Liberty Bell. She recently took students to the Bladensburg waterfront of the Anacostia River, to study the river’s ecosystem of plants and wildlife.

She also helps coordinate special events at Holy Redeemer School, including a forensics expert doing demonstrations for her fourth and fifth graders, an Arbor Day tree planting near the school, and an annual “Bicycle Rodeo” where kids bring their bikes to school and learn about riding safety.

“I want them to like learning. I want them to see school as a positive thing,” Harrington said. “Every day is a new experience, and they can take what they learned and apply it somewhere.”