Aquinas College Student Wins Grand Prize in Teaching Human Dignity Contest

August 30, 2021

Nashville, TN – Sister Eva Marie Gorman, O.P., a student at Aquinas College, has received first place in the University of Notre Dame Teaching Human Dignity Contest. The contest was sponsored by the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity in the McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Contest applicants were challenged to develop instructional plans and materials that address life and human dignity issues to create a rich, powerful learning experience for high school students. Three winners were selected this year.

Sister Eva Marie’s unit, “Dignity of the Sick and Suffering,” helps students begin to understand the meaning and value of suffering. Students learn to distinguish between true and false compassion and recognize that authentic respect for human dignity prompts us to alleviate suffering, but not at any cost—it also prompts us to help people accept and be transformed by their suffering.

The contest judges, all of whom have a background in education or actively serve as educators, spoke highly of Sister Eva Marie’s unit:

“Most impressively, the author makes clear that this theme is incredibly important as a foundation for understanding other life issues. Only with a proper grasp of the Christian meaning of suffering can one fully understand the Church’s teaching on life issues such as marriage, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide.”

“This is the type of learning that should be taking place across the board at Catholic schools. Theological issues and the Catholic worldview are not just limited to the theology classroom but are infused in every subject. This resource beautifully infuses the Catholic worldview into an English class in a genuine, substantial way.”

“This resource is outstanding. It is extremely well-written, thorough, engaging, sophisticated, and rooted in the Church. The entire time I was reading the unit, I was wondering – ‘How can we bring this lesson to my school?’”

Sister Eva Marie Gorman, O.P., is currently a student at Aquinas College and plans to graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a minor in Secondary Education. She is currently student teaching at St. Cecilia Academy in Nashville.

Sister Eva Marie’s coursework at Aquinas College played a strong role in creating the foundation for her winning entry. Sister reflected, “My entry was connected to several classes. Most directly, it was connected to Personhood and Human Flourishing, where we studied the Church’s social teaching.” Sister Eva Marie also credits her reading strategies class and various other education classes in which she gained skills in planning quality classroom lessons.

“We are grateful that, even before attaining formal teacher certification, Sister Eva Marie is able to already contribute to high school education in a very real way, promoting the teaching of human dignity in the classroom,” said Sister Cecilia Anne Wanner, O.P., president of Aquinas College. “Sister Eva Marie’s unit shows the result of a beautiful and powerful intersection of a holistic, human formation in the liberal arts and professional formation in preparation for service as a Catholic educator.” 

As part of the first place prize, Sr. Eva Maria’s unit on “Dignity of the Sick and Suffering” will be included in the Office of Life and Human Dignity’s Teaching Human Dignity series. The Teaching Human Dignity series empowers teachers to incorporate life and human dignity issues across subject areas using existing curriculum standards.

 “The Office of Life and Human Dignity is committed to engaging educators to promote a culture of life, and we are incredibly grateful for the many wonderful submissions we received from hardworking teachers,” said Jessica Keating, program director of the Office of Life and Human Dignity.

The Teaching Human Dignity series, which will be provided free of charge, provides one-of-a-kind resources including units, lessons, and expert guides, as well as a variety of other resources, like infographics and videos. These materials provide teachers from every subject area with the creative material and support they need to present a life affirming message. If you are interested in receiving the new Teaching Human Dignity resources when they become available, email life@nd.edu.

Aquinas College is a private, Catholic, four-year liberal arts college founded in 1961, owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. Offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in education and the arts and sciences, Aquinas College is a leader in the formation of educators who are sent forth to teach, preach, and witness to Truth and Charity for the salvation of souls and the transformation of culture.