By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

Six principals of parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese got an “A” on their report cards during an October principal’s conference. They were recognized as Distinguished Principals “for their compassion and willingness to learn the most current educational best practices and their dedication to passing those skills on to their faculties and students.”

The six were Nancy Matteo, principal of St. Andrew School, Newtown; Debbie Jaster, principal of St. Joseph-St. Robert School, Warrington; Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Margaret Rose Adams, principal of SS. Simon and Jude School, West Chester; St. Joseph Sister Lawrence Elizabeth, principal of Stella Maris School, Philadelphia; Daughter of Charity Sister Cheryl Hillig, principal of De Paul Catholic School, Philadelphia; and Louise Sheehan, principal of St. Dorothy School, Drexel Hill.

“Group work and the facility of movement gives testament to good order and rules,” Matteo’s citation said. “The use of technology is a given for research and finding information in preparation for future use. Learning objectives are clearly established and reiterated throughout the lesson. The teachers work toward enabling the students to work independently while they act as facilitator. The atmosphere of the school exudes a wonderful work environment.”

Jaster’s citation noted she opened a new school. “An endeavor such as this relies on a skill set above and beyond those that are essential to leading an existing school,” it said. “She relied on her faith, creativity and good business sense to bring a building out of the mud, recruit students and hire teachers committed to the mission of Catholic education.”

She has influence throughout the Archdiocese as chair of the curriculum committee and “as a master teacher.”

Sister Margaret Rose, the citation said, “enlivens the school in which she administers with her zeal and innovative thinking, challenging all to keep abreast of current educational research and what will provide for an excellent Catholic education for each and every student.

“She is a technology leader using all of the latest technology tools all the while encouraging the same integration in the classroom. Sister Margaret Rose continually searches for new learning.”

At Stella Maris, under Sister Lawrence Elizabeth, “the Catholic identity of the school is the most important function of the school,” according to the citation. “High quality questions are going on in the classrooms and students are engaged in their learning, and the material presented was relevant for the students. Technology is an area that receives high priority, and many in-services were held for the teachers to help bring this to a good level in the classrooms.”

Of Sister Cheryl, her citation read, “Her focus is totally and unselfishly on the students in her care. Sister is a gentle presence within the school, all the while stretching the learning abilities of her faculty and students. A continued and consistent focus on improvement is her mission. Sister Cheryl brings the example of the saints both traditional and modern-day to the students so that the children have clear examples of the direction she expects each child to emulate.”

During her tenure at St. Dorothy, Sheehan “has worked tirelessly at keeping the school’s reputation stellar,” her citation reads in part. “She has accomplished this by keeping programs on the cutting edge. She has a knack for identifying the strengths of those on her faculty and then encouraging each teacher to use that talent for the benefit of the learners. Over all of this is the mantle of Catholic identity. Signs and symbols of the faith are visible throughout the school.”

“It is our honor to acknowledge as such excellent administrators within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said Mary Rochford, archdiocesan superintendent of schools. “The honored principals are truly dedicated to the mission of Catholic education and work tirelessly each day to bring that mission to life in our schools through our students and teachers.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.