News Release, St. Mary’s Ryken High School

Congratulations to Archdiocese of Washington (ADW) teachers of the year for St. Mary’s Ryken, Ms. Tessa Silvestro, and Mr. James Parker. Both are members of the fine arts department. All ADW teachers of the year were celebrated during the High School Principal’s Association mass in mid-October.

Veteran Teacher of the Year

Tessa Silvestro 2019

Ms. Tessa Silvestro | Theatre Director and Fine Arts Department Teacher

Ms. Tessa Silvestro joined the St. Mary’s Ryken community in 2010 and holds a master’s degree from Roosevelt University. As a dedicated theatre teacher, Ms. Silvestro directs two major productions a year (drama and musical), provides audio and visual support for the entire St. Mary’s Ryken community for various events including community events, grandparent’s day, all-school Masses, etc. and actively participates in and supports community theatre in the southern Maryland region.

Ms. Silvestro dedicates a multitude of hours to provide students a space for creative expression and an opportunity to express themselves through the performing arts. According to the Fine Arts Department Chair, “Ms. Silvestro motivates theatre students to perform outside of their comfort zone. For example, students will share the role they wish to play in a particular show, and Ms. Silvestro will encourage them to play a different role that will challenge the students and help them to grow in their craft. Ms. Silvestro has an uncanny ability to see something in students that says they can tackle the role effectively, and the students must trust that she will teach them how to be successful in that character.” 

St. Mary’s Ryken students trust Ms. Silvestro, and our audiences can see the results in every show that she and the students produce – each one is more amazing than the next!

In 2018, Ms. Silvestro won an Outstanding Feature Actress WATCH (Washington Area Theatre Community Honors) Award for her performance in “Boeing, Boeing” at the Port Tobacco Players. Ms. Silvestro received the highest score of all the featured actresses in the 65 plays that were judged during 2018! WATCH is an award event for the Washington area community theatres.

Novice Teacher of the Year

James Parker

Mr. James Parker | Director of Bands and Orchestra and Fine Arts Department Teacher

Mr. James Parker has a master’s degree in Orchestral Conducting and is Director of Band and Orchestra at St. Mary’s Ryken. Mr. Parker is a very active member of the SMR community having created and expanded programs to include a pep band, and the Knights Musical Mentors (KMM). In its inaugural year, KMM is a community-based program open to students in 7thand 8thgrade who are currently taking band/orchestra at their school or lessons outside of school. Led by Mr. Parker with help from SMR band students, the younger students are mentored and participate in the SMR fine arts winter concert.

Mr. Parker exemplifies the Xaverian charism of trust in and out of his classroom.  One student noted, “I can always trust Mr. Parker to be there when I don’t understand a concept in AP Music Theory (which is a lot), or when I just need a laugh. He’s a funny guy!” In the same manner, his department chair said, “Mr. Parker is taking students to new levels and constantly challenging them. I see it in his pep band, band students, as well as in AP Theory class.  When I pop into his classes, I witness the students performing on a daily basis in front of the class, sight-singing, doing a rhythmic exercise or maybe playing on a keyboard.  Some of these students have never played on a keyboard.  They are really asked to step out of their comfort zones, and they trust Mr. Parker that they are in a safe place to do so.”

St. Mary’s Ryken is blessed that Mr. Parker joined our community! 

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...