Educators at Catholic schools in Arlington Heights, Libertyville and Wadsworth are among those honored by the Archdiocese of Chicago with Heart of the School Awards.
The annual awards cover nine categories, with two winners in each category. Winners were recognized for community outreach, being school leaders and for other reasons.
A ceremony was held Thursday at Ditka's Restaurant in Oakbrook Terrace.
Mary McDermott, the veteran band director at St. James School, received a Heart of Enrichment Award. It recognizes school employees who excel at providing instruction and activities in art, music, foreign language, physical education or other enrichment subjects.
McDermott's work with her students extends beyond the classroom. She also organizes an annual music festival and leads students on mission trips, retreats and performances in the community, school officials said.
McDermott said she loves teaching students faith through music "and helping them to develop it to its full potential by offering a variety of opportunities to share their gift."
Tiffany Schiff, a preschool teachers aide at St. Joseph School, is a Heart of Service Award winner. That prize goes to employees who typically work behind the scenes to support a school's mission.
Schiff, who has two children enrolled at St. Joseph, also has led the parent association board and has volunteered at the school in other ways.
"I'm beyond grateful," Schiff said. "This loving community has overwhelmed me."
Elizabeth Kelly, a Spanish language teacher at St. Patrick School, is a Heart of the Future Award winner. It recognizes employees who have worked in education for three years or less and demonstrate outstanding excellence, leadership and service.
Kelly is in her first year as a teacher. She received bachelor's degrees in Spanish and education in 2017 from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
A graduate of Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Kelly said it's "awesome" to be recognized by the archdiocese.
"It's an honor," she said. "I was humbled to receive it."
Other Heart of the School Award winners work at parishes in Chicago, Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Orland Park and Burbank.