SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
What made you want to go into teaching?
Working as a camp counselor for the Boy Scouts in high school. I really enjoyed interacting with my Scouts and the curriculum development piece. I loved the ability to see them enjoy learning from the lessons that I created for them.
What was one of the most important things you learned about school leadership while attending Harvard Graduate School?
One of the biggest takeaways from my graduate experience is to lead with love and lead with grace; to have empathy for the needs of our students. St. Catherine has a very diverse population of students, many who come from a low socioeconomic background. Taking those challenges into consideration and keeping them at the forefront of my mind was another big part of my graduate program. I learned to lead with equity in mind.
How did being in the Boy Scouts and earning your Eagle Scout help form you into the person you are today?
Scouts and my faith are very much intertwined, and I owe everything I am to them. The Scouting is a program of character development and leadership, but a big piece of Scouting is reverence to God and service to others. It provided me with a lot of opportunities to serve my community, see the country, and connect with others.
Can you tell me about your time at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico?
The ranch is a national backpacking high adventure base for the Scouts. I was a staff member out there for eight summers and did five treks as a participant. One of those treks was the St. George Trek. I hiked with other Catholic Scouts from across the country. One of our advisors was a seminarian brother and another was a bishop from Indiana. It was pretty awesome to hike the Rocky Mountains with a bishop. We really connected and grounded in our faith surrounded by the beauty that God created. Those experiences really grew my faith.
What was your Eagle Scout Project and what made you committed to earning that rank? What was hardest about it? Most rewarding?
It was conservation related. There was a nature center near my hometown. They had put a new addition onto the center, and behind it was kind of an ugly area with power lines and they’d put picture windows on the back of the new addition that looked out onto nothing; so my project was to beautify the area. I backfilled the eroding hill with a rock wall and some native plants to Iowa, and put a butterfly garden along the building and a bird feeder of a very specific design and a walking path. It was supposed to be an example of what people could do in their own backyards to promote native growth. To become an Eagle Scout, you have to demonstrate your ability to lead and carry out a project. I had a number of helpers, anywhere from 10-20 people over two weekends.
You were recently named principal of St. Catherine’s High School after serving as its assistant principal for a year. What drew you to the school and what makes you want to stay and grow in this new role?
Right after college, my first teaching job was out in Virginia at a faith-based school. I was out there for five years before going to grad school at Harvard. After I left, I just wanted to be closer to home and ended up working for a school in my hometown at the middle school I went to in eighth grade. After working in a public school, I decided that I wanted to go back to a faith-based environment. I looked around at a lot of schools in the Midwest hoping to find a place where I could use my experiences in private and public schools. I found the perfect fit at St. Catherine’s. St. Catherine’s size, student body, history, and close-knit community really spoke to me.
Can you tell me a little about your faith journey? Was your faith always something that was important to you or was there a time when you had a conversion of heart?
I grew up within the Catholic Church in a great Catholic family. There was a period of my life when I stepped away from the Catholic Church a little bit during my high school and college years. But when I was out in Philmont, it kept me grounded. When I was out there working in the summer, I looked at everything and was so aware that God created it. In 2015, my mom passed away unexpectedly, and it was after that experience that I was drawn so much closer to God. I trusted in God’s plan but I wanted to better understand his plan. It drew me closer to my faith. I read the bible more, prayed and it caused me to be more at peace and appreciate what I have.
What do you hope your students learn about Christ from you?
I think the thing that I hope to impart on my students the most is for them to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you live that commandment, to have as much care for the people and community around you as you do for yourself and your family, the world will be a better place.