At her students' request, Patricia Buckley had a special show and tell for the class.

"They wanted to see the apple," she said with a laugh.

Buckley -- a first-grade teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Dallastown -- was among seven Catholic school teachers who recently received Golden Apple awards from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.

The award symbolizes a person's professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values and devotion to teaching in Catholic schools, according to Joe Aponick, the diocesan spokesman.

"It's such an honor," said Buckley, 57, of Hopewell Township. "I just still can't get over that they picked me. It's so touching."

As award winners, Buckley and the other teachers each received a $5,000 cash reward, a Golden Apple and a photograph with the Rev. Edward Quinlan, diocesan secretary for education.

Buckley said she was nominated for the award by St. Joseph kindergarten teacher Diane Harper. Buckley said she learned about the award win when the principal, Peggy Snyder, announced it to Buckley's first-grade class of 14 students.

"And all the kids screamed and clapped, and I just kept saying, 'Oh my God. Oh my God,'" Buckley recalled.

The Golden Apple award was established by the Donahue Family Foundation Inc., based in Pittsburgh. Jack and Rhodora Donahue, who have 13 children educated in Catholic schools, established the foundation in 1992. The foundation's award program also is done in Youngstown and Toledo, both in Ohio.

Schools nominate: To find award recipients in Pennsylvania, the Harrisburg diocese asks each of its 38 elementary and seven secondary schools to nominate a teacher.

After nominated teachers send in essays about their commitment to teaching in Catholic schools and letters of recommendation, a panel of diocesan administrators determines which teachers will get the Golden Apples.

Buckley, in her 15th year teaching at St. Joseph, said she was surprised she was chosen to receive the award, which was given out May 14 at Cardinal Keeler Center in Harrisburg.

The teacher said she needs a new roof at her home and will use her cash award toward that project.

Buckley, who also taught school in Baltimore for seven years, said she attended Catholic school from elementary through graduate schools.

Becoming a Catholic school teacher was a way to give back to the religious community that provided her a great education, Buckley said. The teacher said she also enjoys seeing her students learn.

"It's so rewarding for me to see them learn to read and pick up a new skill, (understanding) something they had a hard time with and then the light goes on and they say, 'Oh, I get it now,'" Buckley said. "It's great to hear that."

-- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.