Mary Helen Kashuba, SSJ, DML, was recently selected as the recipient of the 2019 Nelson H. Brooks Award for her distinguished service and leadership in the foreign language teaching profession.
Sister Mary Helen, a professor of French and Russian at Chestnut Hill College, was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Nelson H. Brooks Award by the Board of Directors of the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (NECTFL). Established in 1968 but renamed in 1978 in honor of Nelson H. Brooks of Yale University, this annual award recognizes world language professionals for longstanding and exceptional service and leadership. NECTFL will present the award to Sister Mary Helen in February at its conference in New York City.
“Above and beyond her prestigious scholarship for over fifty years and all the excellence she demonstrates and inspires on campus, Sister Mary Helen Kashuba has been tireless in advancing, improving and promoting the teaching of foreign languages, literature and culture in regional, national and international professional circles,” said Cecelia J. Cavanaugh, SSJ. Ph.D., dean of undergraduate studies at the College.
According to its website, NECTFL “maintains a commitment to the individual foreign language teacher, to collaborative endeavors, to innovation and to inclusionary politics and policies.” It serves educators in all languages at every level, from kindergarten to college, in both public and private institutions. While it represents educators from Maine to Virginia, it demonstrates leadership across the country through its affiliation with major foreign language associations and committees.
Sister Mary Helen is the longest-tenured faculty member at the College, where she graduated in 1955 and started working in 1963. Aside from teaching French and Russian, she has chaired the Department of Foreign Language and Literature at the College on and off for 25 years. Her work in that department, such as writing and receiving grants and establishing a new major by collaborating with the business department, has enabled the College to continue innovating for current and future students.
Since the 1960s, Sister Mary Helen has worked with the international Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She studied the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s original, founding documents from 1650 and played an important role in their interpretation and translation. In addition, she has written a book on the history of the College, “Tradition & Risk: Chestnut Hill College, 1924–1999.”
“She is well-known and greatly respected by Sisters of Saint Joseph all over the world, not only for her expertise in our history and spirituality but also for how she allows that scholarship to inform her spirituality,” Sister Cecelia said.
Along with her book, Sister Mary Helen has published more than 50 articles on foreign languages and literature in national and international scholarly periodicals. As part of her efforts to promote the teaching of foreign languages, she has held leadership positions in a number of local, state and national organizations. For example, she has held seats on the executive and governing boards of the American Association of Teachers of French, of which she was president from 2013-2015, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Over the years, Sister Mary Helen has received a variety of accolades. Among these honors are the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association’s Educator of the Year Award and the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. She is also the recipient of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques, an award bestowed by the French government to prominent figures in culture and education.
Because of all the work that Sister Mary Helen has done to promote the teaching of foreign languages and advance the education offered at Chestnut Hill College, Sister Cecelia said that she “can think of no individual who deserves this recognition more.”
“I can say with confidence that I and so many members of our institution, congregation and profession have all set our professional and personal standards by Sister Mary Helen,” Sister Cecelia said. “Our lives, our teaching, our students, our college and our professional societies are better for it.”