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Congratulations to 2023 Archdiocese of Washington Novice & Veteran Teachers!



Hayward, Percich Teachers of the Year


Congratulations to Aaron Percich, 2023 Archdiocese of Washington Veteran Teacher of the Year

Dr. Aaron Percich is St. Mary’s Ryken’s Veteran Teacher of the year.  

Dr. Percich is a graduate of Villanova University where he earned his M.S. in Liberal Studies and West Virginia University where he earned his PhD in English.  He is in his 5th year teaching at SMR, teaching African American Literature and Medieval and Modern Humanities. In addition to his faculty position in the SMR English department, Dr. Percich previously led our Theology courses, teaching Moral Theology and Social Ethics.  

Dr. Percich leads discussion-based classes that encourage students to engage with the text to uncover the author’s meaning.  Dr. Percich collaborates yearly with an SMR colleague to provide adult education courses open to the greater community as well as the SMR Community.  Topics like “Being Human” and “Why Beauty Matters” provide an opportunity for fellowship around Catholic thought. 

Dr. Percich leads SMR’s Knights for Life organization. The group supports local organizations supporting the choice of life and participates in the annual March for Life. 

Of his work, Dr. Percich says, “I feel incredibly blessed to work at St. Mary’s Ryken as an English Literature teacher. I have a reputation for teaching difficult literary works, yet that does not deter students from taking my classes. On a near daily basis, I am truly and pleasantly taken aback by just how many students can work through the difficulty to offer truly thoughtful and incisive comments about the literature. In addition, the students genuinely care about each other and that feeds into the classroom where their dedication and openness to each other allow for an authentic engagement with education, literature, and the ideas that matter most. They also involve me as the teacher in that care and what comes out is a very Catholic environment in which the intellectual, social, and essentially human can develop and truly flourish. I not only get to teach great literature at St. Mary’s Ryken, but I do so with a truly great group of young men and women that is unlike any other school I have been at before.”

Congratulations to Clara Hayward, 2023 Archdiocese of Washington Novice Teacher of the Year

Ms. Clara Hayward is St. Mary’s Ryken’s Novice Teacher of the year.  In only her third year, Ms. Hayward has contributed to doubled enrollment in our fine arts courses, advocated for the enhancement of our ceramics space and equipment, begun the SMR chapter of the National Art Honor Society, and stewarded our fine arts students to giving their time and talents to the larger community, in activities such as Leonardtown’s First Fridays and art installations to honor Leonardtown lynching victim Mr. Benjamin Hance.  She has introduced our students to plein-air painting and her painting classes can often be found outside of her classroom on a hill overlooking the lower fields and Breton Bay.  

Ms. Hayward is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts/Painting and Printmaking.  She is currently pursuing teacher certification through Notre Dame of Maryland University. She is a skilled artist, working in ceramics, drawing with dry materials, watercolor, plein-air acrylic painting, abstract collage, and creating art with found materials.  Ms. Hayward's art has been shown at the North End Gallery in Leonardtown, Md.  

Ms. Hayward believes that "self-expression is a vital aspect of the personal growth of young people."  I encourage students to channel unwanted emotions into cathartic works of art. I work with students to achieve present-moment awareness to reduce anxiety and improve their artistic skills via specific art processes and breathing techniques.”

Of her membership on the faculty of SMR, Ms. Hayward says “I have re-connected with my Catholic heritage.”