When Marsha Kalkowski began teaching journalism at Marian High School about two dozen years ago, students used desktop computers, a darkroom and your standard pen and paper.

Today, the Marian journalism “lab,” as it’s called, has 25 big-screen Mac computers, 10 digital cameras, a tabloid color printer and … a drone!!!

“It’s like heaven for a journalism teacher,” Kalkowski said in an email after I asked about her recent award.

Kalkowski was among eight Catholic school educators feted by the Omaha Archdiocese — which runs the state’s fourth-largest school system (19,000 students in 23 counties). Every year, the archdiocese solicits educator-of-the-year nominations, chooses winners and celebrates them with grant money and a nice dinner.

It’s a small acknowledgment, considering how little Catholic school teachers generally are paid compared to their public school counterparts. But it’s also an important way to recognize the adults shaping children’s lives.

It was hard not to single out the journalism teacher from my alma mater. Though Kalkowski was not MY journalism teacher (the excellent Kathleen Havlik was), the program has been strong. Marian now boasts a 16-page print newspaper, still called “The Network,” a 240-page yearbook, a student-run website and a weekly broadcast. Plus there’s a literary magazine called “Burn.”

Kalkowski is a member of the Nebraska High School Press Association and its past president. She is Nebraska state director of the Journalism Education Association. And she belongs to Nebraska Press Women.

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The course is the same and completely different, of course, as the information platforms have expanded.

“Gather the facts and tell the story with a responsible use of information,” Kalkowski said. “The need for truth and transparency just as strong — if not stronger than ever.”

Kalkowski is a Kansas native and Creighton University graduate who also has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is further certified through the Journalism Education Association.

Kalkowski said her role is less about training future journalists as much as it is helping form leaders, thinkers and “women for the world.” She says the journalism lessons about basic communication, research and technology translate into any field. Some of the most important lessons are especially relevant today.

"To think critically and challenge different ideas respectfully," she said, "to overcome challenges and seek out the good in the people around them. Students can also learn how to live their values and faith in the midst of the social media chaos that surrounds them.”

Kalkowski was part of the 42nd annual crop of Catholic educators honored at the Archbishop’s Dinner for Education, held earlier this month.

Other winners include: Mike Dempsey, Gross Catholic High School assistant principal and athletic and activities director; Jennifer Fiscus, principal of St. Rose of Lima in Crofton, Nebraska; teachers Cindy Menzel of St. Mary in Bellevue; Nancy Hochstein of Holy Trinity in Hartington; Karen Schmeichel of St. Mary High School in O’Neill; Suzanne Seyler of St. Bernard in Omaha; and Diane Vaiskunas of Madonna School and Community-based Services in Omaha.

erin.grace@owh.com, 402-444-1136