By PATTY MAHONEY     1/27/2023

After a lengthy review process, which included reading applications and interviewing many worthy candidates, the Diocese of Orange Department of Catholic Schools has announced the winners of its inaugural Elizabeth Ann Seton Teacher of the Year Award 2022-23.

Congratulations to Mr. Mark Evans of Christ Cathedral Academy in Garden Grove and Mr. Ben De Los Reyes of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana!

Mr. Evans and Mr. De Los Reyes will be honored along with all of the Teacher of the Year finalists at the annual Celebrating Catholic Educators Dinner which will be held on Feb. 3 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Anaheim.



Mr. Evans and Mr. De Los Reyes each took the time to answer a few questions from OC Catholic about their profession. Answers may be edited for length, content and clarity.

MARK EVANS teaches advanced mathematics (fifth grade) and regular level math (sixth through eighth grades) at Christ Cathedral Academy. He’s been teaching for 20 years.

Who/what influenced you to become a teacher?
We read in the Gospels how Jesus called the Twelve apostles to His ministry by saying, “Follow me.” In a similar way as the Twelve, I believe I, too, was called. In my case to the teaching profession and the ministry of Catholic education. I had been giving considerable thought as to how I might volunteer at one of the diocesan Catholic schools in the area. And then I had one of those ‘aha!’ moments – why not volunteer
to tutor students after school. As with the Twelve, I had another profession, a career in music/video retail. So, during this period, I would work my ‘day job’ then tutor students after school. I enjoyed working with the students, so I inquired as to how I might volunteer in the classroom. That led to my becoming a substitute teacher and adding my name to the school’s sub list. After putting what I should do in  prayer and into the hands of God, I made the decision to resign my position in music/video retail and devote myself fully to pursuing a career in teaching. Ultimately, I obtained my teaching credential and was offered a full-time teaching position at the school. Now I am 20 years into my ministry as a Catholic school educator at the same school — Christ Cathedral Academy and formerly St. Callistus before the transition to the Cathedral campus.

What is the value of a Catholic education?
The value of a Catholic education is that it prepares students to be faithful disciples of Christ. Catholic education is dedicated to the sacred mission of educating, developing and nurturing all aspects of the child — spiritually, intellectually, academically, social-emotionally, physically and creatively. Catholic schools provide the opportunity for students to expand their knowledge, explore their passions, create community, and develop an understanding about who they are as individuals and as children of God. Within the framework of the Catholic school environment, it is a place where students, teachers and families work in partnership and collaboration toward the ultimate goal of giving each individual child a solid foundation in academic subjects. It is an environment in which students can explore their passions, create community and strengthen their sense of self. A Catholic education gives students a solid spiritual foundation. This enables each child to grow in their Catholic faith and come to know God in an environment where the Gospel message is taught and lived so that they are able to become responsible and active members of the Catholic Church and the global community.

What would you be if you weren’t a teacher and why?
To be honest, I can’t imagine doing anything else but being a Catholic school educator. I am blessed that I can come into Christ Cathedral Academy each day and be with the students; not just the students I teach, but all the school’s students and teach a subject that I love (mathematics). I view myself, not only as a teacher and sharer of information, but most importantly as a role model. It is through my actions and words, for example positive affirmation, support, treating each student with respect and dignity, encouraging success, that I can make a difference in the lives of the students I teach, and to instill in students the responsibility to be active, faith-filled disciples of Christ. And as an added benefit for myself, I believe that I learn as much from my students as they learn from me, which in turn makes me a better person and a better educator. I do ask God if being a Catholic educator fulfills His plan for my life or does He have one more ‘adventure’ for me. Even if there are other things I’d like to be if not a teacher, Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I may create many plans throughout my life, but these plans will only come to fruition if it is God’s will and if it is part of His plan for me. I’m sure God will let me know in His own time. Until that time, my life will continue to follow the path that His plan has created.


BEN DE LOS REYES has taught in the Religious Studies department at Mater Dei High School since 2009. He currently teaches the Paschal Mystery and the Church for sophomores, and Peace and Justice for seniors.


Who/what influenced you to become a teacher?
Thank you to those who selected me for the Teacher of the Year award. My own positive experiences as a Catholic school student influenced me to become a teacher. I had a fantastic K-8 education at Our Lady of Refuge in Long Beach and wonderful high school years at St. John Bosco in Bellflower. My teachers and coaches, especially Elston Carr, Omar Delgado, Jim Crofut and Judy Foster, challenged me with high standards and created a positive school community that I was happy to be a part of. I’m grateful for these teachers and for my parents that made sure my five sisters and I all received a K-12 Catholic education. Since I started teaching, many wonderful mentors helped me grow in this vocation. I’m grateful for the guidance and inspiration of my colleagues and the administration at Mater Dei. I’ve also been blessed tremendously by the amazing teachers at the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange who led me in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

What is the value of a Catholic education?
In my experience, Catholic schools have been communities who journey together. At Mater Dei we have a
favorite retreat song called “Come and Journey with Me.” The Journey of a Catholic school year follows the rhythm of Sacraments, retreats, daily prayer, charitable service and faith woven into each academic class, sports team, and extracurricular activity. The journey helps students and adults to discover our identity as beloved children of God. The journey develops our knowledge and skills so we can be the people the world needs right now. Our journey helps us discern and be open to God’s call.

What would you be if you weren’t a teacher and why?
I may be working in international aid and development. This was my goal after earning a master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies from UC San Diego. Global poverty continues to be important to me and I am grateful be a longtime supporter, volunteer and board member for a nonprofit called Concern America. Started over 50 years ago by an Irish priest, Concern America trains local people to provide healthcare where there are no doctors, and to build and maintain their own clean water systems. I love that their focus is empowerment, education, and long-term transformation. My sister Audrey (Connolly ’11) is a physician assistant and currently a Concern America volunteer in Guatemala. So having a heart
or service is in our family culture.