St. Norbert Catholic School students name Molly Camp this year’s recipient of the Nano Nagle award

By Catherine Risling     8/12/2019

If they’re lucky, kids will have at least one teacher who stands out. One who inspires them to read, study until they pass their math exams, and look forward to school rather than dreading it. 

This year St. Norbert Catholic School students decided that teacher is Molly Camp.  

Camp was named the 2019 Nano Nagle Award recipient based on her ability to demonstrate the virtues of faith, generosity and justice. The award is named after the foundress of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, six of whom opened the Orange school more than 50 years ago. 

“She keeps God in her heart,” wrote one of Camp’s 4th grade students.  

Another shared, “She follows God’s path.” 

When Molly Camp stepped onto the St. Norbert campus three years ago, everyone noticed. After all, she was a 22-year-old grad student who could’ve easily passed for a student’s slightly older sibling. 

Camp also was a brand-new teacher with little classroom experience. She came highly recommended through
the master’s program at Loyola Marymount, where she was finishing her degree. So SNCS principal Joe Ciccoianni took a chance.  

“I was impressed that even as a young person, she wanted people to know about God,” Ciccoianni says. “We need teachers on fire with their faith who can inspire the kids. That’s what I saw in Molly.” 

Camp grew up in Atlanta, attended Catholic schools and earned her bachelor’s at Fairfield University, a Jesuit college in Connecticut. There she developed a passion for social justice. 

“The classes at Fairfield are big on educating the whole person,” says Camp, who helped develop resources for teachers at severely low-income schools while in college. “Working toward the common good is big for me.” 

Ciccoianni says Camp leads by example. Students expressed Ms. Camp “encourages us to help others” and “listens with an open mind and teaches us how to be fair.”  

“That’s what sets Molly apart—she teaches kids how to embody the qualities of Nano Nagle through her actions,” Ciccoianni says. 

In the classroom, Camp discovered a natural bond with the kids.  

“I could relate and laugh with them,” she says. “But I also knew I had to earn respect from the kids. If they like you and like being around you, then they will respect you and listen. If they know I love them, it sets up the class for success.” 

Camp’s approach is to set individual goals for each student. She’s also quick to identify those struggling academically, because she herself did so while growing up. Until one teacher changed that. 

“During junior year in high school my English teacher, a former nun, recognized I was smart,” says Camp. “No one had made me feel that way. Whatever I produced, she recognized I knew what I was doing. After that, my grades went up. I realized how important education was and I learned to study.” 

This summer Camp bid farewell to SNCS and returned to the East Coast. She has already accepted a teaching position at a Catholic school in Boston. It was a difficult choice, she says, due to her closeness with SNCS students. 

Ciccoianni says he expects nothing less from Camp, to make the decision to be closer to family.  

“I feel like God blessed us,” Ciccoianni says. “He sent us the most wonderful person. We have three sets of kids who are better because of her.”