CatholicPhilly.com presents a Q&A with the Warminster parish school’s principal, Roselee Maddaloni, the latest in a special ongoing series of interviews with leaders of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
What made you decide to pursue a career in education?
I was fortunate enough to be part of the Cadet Teachers’ Program. I wanted very much to be a teacher and to make a difference in the lives of children.
How long have you been working in education?
After 19 years in teaching, I left to join the business world for 14 years. I returned in 2002 as a principal. I have been in Catholic education 34 years!
How many years have you been at Nativity of Our Lord School?
What makes you most proud as the leader of Nativity of Our Lord School?
When I look at Nativity of Our Lord School, I am in awe of the wonderful school we have. I honestly don’t take a lot of credit for that. I believe I am most proud that I can collaborate with dedicated teachers and staff who really are the backbone of this school.
As a leader it is so important to help form new leaders, encourage our teachers and watch the children grow into amazing young people.
What unique academic programs does your school offer students?
Nativity is a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. We have a Wilson Reading Specialist who works with our students who have difficulty learning. This has been such an asset for us because these students might otherwise have left us. We also instituted a program called OWLS (Older, Wiser Learning Support). These volunteers are retired teachers who come to school to work with our students who need additional assistance. They are invaluable. We offer Spanish to our children from pre-K3 to grade 8.
Name the top three points that you tell prospective students and families about your school.
Nativity first and foremost is a Christ-centered school. When you enter the school there is a sign that reads, “Jesus is the reason for this school.” Secondly, we tell prospective students and families that Nativity is a family and they are part of it. Thirdly, we let them know that every measure will be taken to ensure they are happy, accepted and safe.
What is the one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and tell yourself in elementary school?
I wish I could have advised myself to not work so much on perfectionism. It’s hard to abandon that as you get older. I would advise others that they don’t have to be perfect, they just have to BE. I wish someone had given me that advice.
What is the greatest challenge in Catholic education today?
We are definitely in a culture that is counter to Catholic teaching. It is difficult to impart good Catholic teaching in school when it is not practiced and encouraged in society. That is the greatest challenge. You always hope you can instill strong virtues in our youth so that they can carry them into their lives.
What inspires you to work in Catholic education?
I have been a product of Catholic schools my entire life, even through undergraduate and graduate school. There is nothing like it. It is wonderful to walk through a school and say, “God bless you” to the children (not just when they are sneezing), and they return the same blessing. When I hear the children pray in the morning, I am inspired. If prayers begin in the morning and any children are in the hallway, they stop, fold their hands and pray. It’s just wonderful!
What is a special tradition in your school that people should know?
A big tradition at Nativity of Our Lord is Red and Green Day. The day is celebrated before our Christmas break. The kids have to wear their uniform, but the fun is how they accessorize it with red and green. They wear Christmas socks and Christmas hats and use all kinds of things to decorate their uniforms. All the kids gather in the back school yard and Santa arrives on the Warminster Fire Truck. After his arrival, the children from pre-K3 to grade 2 have their individual time with Santa. He gives them letters lovingly written by their prayer partners. In the afternoon, the students gather in the Community Center. Each grade gives a short performance of either a song or dance. It’s a great time!
What is your favorite part of the school day or academic year?
I enjoy walking the halls and watching the good learning that goes on. When I see that, I can say, “All is well.” As far as the academic year is concerned, I like the Christmas season beginning with Advent and the daily lighting of the Advent wreath up to all the festivities leading to Christmas and culminating in our Christmas live nativity prayer service on the last day of school before Christmas break.
When you’re not at school what are you most likely doing?
I have a 93-year-old mother who lives with me, so there might be some extra duties. I also am adjunct faculty at Immaculata University. Fortunately, I am now teaching online and don’t have to travel.
What is one thing that people would be most surprised to learn about you?
As hard as it is to believe, I can be rather shy and unsure of myself.
What is your favorite restaurant or local attraction?
Taormina’s in Ivyland is my favorite.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I love to read and I love technology. I spend a lot of time doing some geeky things with technology.
Who is your favorite sports team?
Eagles, of course!
What is your favorite book?
“Night” by Elie Weisel.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Avalon and Cape Cod