July 21, 2015 // Local

Meet the new principals ready to greet you

St. Jude familiar turf with Mike Obergfell

FORT WAYNE — Mike Obergfell is a familiar face at St. Jude School, where he has been named the new principal. For the last year, he has served as the school’s assistant principal, but his familiarity reaches deep in the St. Jude community. He has been a parishioner there for 45 years.

“St. Jude is and has been a very strong school spiritually and academically,” Obergfell told Today’s Catholic. “My main goal this year is to maintain our strong and rigorous curriculum, while at the same time growing to better serve students of all learning abilities and help them find academic success.”

“I have always been in awe of really good teachers, and we have a lot of them at St. Jude,” Obergell reported. “These days teachers have many responsibilities outside the classroom.”

He added that what he looks most forward to as principal is wanting “to help them in any way I can to minimize the extra burdens so that they can focus on the classroom and what they do best and that is teach.”

Obergfell is married to Mary. They have seven children and two grandchildren.

Obergfell graduated from Bishop Dwenger High School in 1982 and taught at Bishop Dwenger for eight years. Prior to Bishop Dwenger, he taught at St. Rose, Monroeville.

He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

When asked about the role of Catholic education, Obergfell noted, “There is a saying that ‘Who you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.’”

“We are constantly on a journey, all of us, of self-discovery to find what God’s will is for us,” Obergfell continued. “If we strive to follow His will, then we bring Him glory.”

“Catholic education is important at passing on the faith, and helping students to find their individual gifts, and how God is calling them to live their lives,” Obergfell said. “Whatever our gifts, we will only find true joy when we seek the truth, and serve God and one another.”

— Tim Johnson

Cheryl Klinker appointed principal of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE — Cheryl Klinker’s appointment as principal of St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne is a homecoming of sorts. Once a special education teacher there, she will now apply her skills as principal.

As the new principal, Klinker hopes to continue the strong tradition of community in Christ, a community that is rooted in tradition and service to others.

“I hope to increase educational opportunities for all students who desire a Catholic education,” Klinker explained.

She is excited to get to know the pulse of the school as principal. “I look forward to coming to know each family, the students and teachers and the mission that God already has planned for the school,” she detailed.

Born in Cincinnati, Cheryl Klinker’s family moved around the Midwest much of her childhood before settling in Fort Wayne. She attended St. Charles for her eighth-grade year and went on to graduate from Bishop Dwenger High School.

Klinker and her husband Craig, have four children.

Klinker received her elementary education and special education degree from Purdue University and her master’s degree in education from Indiana University. Her first teaching position was at the first/second grade level at St. Joseph (currently St. Rose) in Monroeville. With various breaks while raising her children, Klinker also taught sixth-grade math and science at St. Charles and served as director of special education during her time at St. Vincent de Paul (1996-2011). There she grew the special education program from a small closet to a staff of five serving 70 students.

In the fall of 2011 she began as principal at St. Louis Academy where she served until her new appointment.

Klinker summarized, “A Catholic education is an education infused with the teachings of Jesus Christ and therefore one that shares in the human love, compassion and dignity of others.”

“I have witnessed many ‘miracles’ of student and family lives that have been changed with the help of Catholic education,” she said. “It is an education truly led by the Holy Spirit.”

— Michelle Castleman

Derek Boone new principal at St. John the Baptist, South Bend

SOUTH BEND — St. John the Baptist School in South Bend will begin an exciting new 2015-2016 school year with Derek Boone as their new principal. Principal Boone began his administrative duties on July 1. St. John’s first day of school is Aug. 18.

Boone and his wife Stacey are parishioners of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Huntington, and as they anticipate their move to South Bend, Boone says, “I’m looking forward to helping out the students, both spiritually and academically. It all goes back to that!”

A graduate of Ball State University, Boone holds a bachelor’s in physical education and is licensed to teach physical education in grades k-12. His first teaching position was with Huntington Catholic as a physical education teacher, which he held for four and a half years. Boone then spent the next year at Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne as its physical education teacher. All the while he was working on his master’s in educational leadership, which he earned from Indiana University-Purdue University of Fort Wayne in 2014.

His most current position was at St. Vincent de Paul School where he was dean of students for two years.

Boone is enthusiastic about the new administrative position he will hold at St. John the Baptist School. As principal he looks forward to getting to know the school community, getting involved and sharing some ideas with the students and their parents.

“I’d like to bridge the spiritual and academic gap from school to home,” he says, hoping to ensure parents have a “good solid foundation with their kids at home.”

Besides his desire to get involved in the community, new Principal Boone has his sights on increasing the enrollment at St. John School as well.

Principal Boone believes that Catholic education provides students with a life-long benefit. “As administrators and teachers, we have the benefit of forming youth through spiritual and academic teaching. The goal is to teach a life-long foundation that will form our students into upstanding citizens. We help form a religious foundation as our students grow,” he says.

— Kay Cozad

Beatrice Royal takes administrative helm at St. John the Baptist School in Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE — St. John the Baptist School is poised and ready for the start of a new academic year with its new administrative leader Beatrice Royal at the helm. Principal Royal began her duties at St. John’s July 1.

Royal and her husband Michael, parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, have seven children and have passed the legacy of the Catholic education of their youth along to their brood. Royal grew up in a large Catholic family and received her exemplary Catholic education at St. Joseph School in Garrett and Bishop Dwenger High School.

She is a graduate of the University of Saint Francis earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She also holds a master’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne that includes a concentration in gifted and talented. Royal is currently pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership through the University of Notre Dame. She will complete her studies there next summer.

During the past 11 years Royal initially taught first grade at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne, then took the role of talent development coordinator there. She now looks forward to her new role as principal at St. John the Baptist School and says she will focus on “leading with zeal” and “strengthening the community.”

Her goals for the coming year at St. John include enhancement and improvement. She says, “My goals are to enhance the current Catholic School culture and to utilize that culture for school improvement.”

When asked why Catholic education is important she says, “Catholic education is in the unique position to infuse the mission of the Church into the lives of our students. Everything we do in Catholic schools is rooted in the belief that God is in all things and every child has gifts from God.”

— Kay Cozad

St. Joseph, Decatur, welcomes new principal Jeff Kieffer 

DECATUR — Jeff Kieffer hit the floor running on July 1 this year when he became the new principal at St. Joseph School in Decatur.

Parishioners of St. John the Evangelist, Hartford City, Kieffer and his wife Angela have been married for 23 years. They have three children.

In his rich educational background, Kieffer served four years in the United States Army and attended the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in the fall of 1987. Following his military service Kieffer attended Ball State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1994 and later a master’s degree in educational leadership at Ball State University in 2007.

With a desire to teach in the Catholic school system, Kieffer began his career at St. John-Reidman Memorial School in Hartford City, and for six years taught a third/fourth-grade classroom. After the school closed he found himself teaching middle school math at St. Mary in Muncie where later that year he was named the interim administrator. He became principal in 2006 and served there until 2009. For the past five years, Kieffer has been principal at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Avilla.

Principal Kieffer recognizes that each school has its own distinction and plans his goals for his new school accordingly. “Every school has unique gifts, and likewise, each person. I will do my best to help maintain the level of academic excellence St. Joseph School is known for, to continue the many great traditions at St. Joseph School, and help to keep our faith first and foremost as we go. Christ should be the reason for all that we do at our school,” he says.

Stepping into this new position Kieffer says, “I look forward most to getting to know each and every student, to have them know that God has a plan for them, and to help them achieve all that they set out to accomplish. I also look forward to getting to know the staff, parents and parishioners at St. Joseph School and working with them to help St. Joseph continue to grow.”

With his goals for St. Joseph in mind Principal Kieffer says, “It seems that every day there is another negative influence pulling people away from the Church. Without a strong knowledge and understanding of our faith, which will not be found anywhere but in our Catholic schools, what hope do we have? As an administrator, I grow in my faith each day, and now, more than ever, I believe we need Catholic Schools and children who know, understand and live their faith if we want them to be able to resist and overcome the challenges.”

— Kay Cozad

Jane Sandor excited to be back at principal’s desk

­AVILLA — Jane Sandor is excited to be back at the principal’s desk, this time taking the helm at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Avilla.

Sandor said her goals as the new principal are “to continue the deep faith traditions, daily witnessing of the faith within the school community and the parish community and to join each student, each staff member and each family as we walk our faith journeys.”

The principal’s desk is a familiar post for Sandor. She had been principal of St. Aloysius, Yoder, from 2004-2006 and at St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, from 2006-2011. Most recently she has worked with the Office of Catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Prior to being a principal, Sandor was a teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne from 1993-2004.

Returning to a principal’s role, Sandor cited, “Pope Francis has called each of us to ‘discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey His call to go forth from our own comfort zone’ — from ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ 20.”

“As I was discerning my decision,” she said, “my husband simply said, ‘Jane, you need to work with kids.’”

“These last four years away from students and school have been difficult,” Sandor said. “Chalk dust is part of my being. Shared prayer and energy with students and teachers has strengthened me. Being a principal is my chance to encounter Jesus every day in the eyes, hearts and minds of students and teachers. Such a gift is a gift of grace and hope.”

Sandor said, “The importance of Catholic education is found in the dignity of each person. We are called, and at times challenged, to step away from society so that we can enter into a closer and more personal relationship with Jesus. We must rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, find comfort in the arms of our Lord and seek our Father. This call is best answered in Catholic education.”

Sandor and her husband of 40 years, John, are the parents of three daughters and have six grandchildren. The Sandors are members of St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Wayne and their rural Avilla home includes two horses, two dogs and many cats.

Sandor’s educational background includes an undergraduate degree in English education, a master’s degree in educational leadership — both from Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, and her administrator’s license from the State of Indiana.

— Tim Johnson

Vanessa Diller chosen principal of St. Louis Academy

NEW HAVEN — St. Louis Academy has chosen Vanessa Diller, as their new principal for the 2015-2016 school year. Diller, a member of the parish and teacher there for the past seven years, went through her Alliance Catholic Education (ACE) commencement on July 11 after completing the Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame to obtain her master’s degree in school administration and leadership.

“What a ‘God thing’ that I was looking to become a principal and the position became open at St. Louis Academy,” marveled Diller. St. Louis Academy parent and new staff member, Tracey Jacquay explained, “It was the easiest search committee I have ever been on. Vanessa was a shoe-in.”

Diller grew up just across the state line in Convoy, Ohio, after her family relocated there when she was in grade school. She attended St. Rose School in Monroeville for first and second grade. Her family remained members of the parish after the move and she received all of her sacraments there.

Diller has been married to her high school sweetheart, Michael, for eight years. Together they have three brilliant and loving children from ages 1-5.

Diller attended college at Wright State University Lake Campus in Celina, Ohio, for her undergraduate degree and received her bachelor of science in education. After teaching for three years, she pursued higher education through the Teaching Exceptional Children program at the University of Notre Dame, which is a certificate program for special education.

Diller’s first teaching assignment was at St. Louis Academy where she doubled as a three day per week kindergarten teacher for four students and taught the computer class school-wide two days a week. The following year she approached her principal and urged her to consider five-day kindergarten. And the year after that, her principal approached her with plans to develop and recreate a preschool program, which hadn’t existed at St. Louis Academy for some time. These changes have directly impacted the tremendous growth in the younger grades.

Her immediate goals for St. Louis Academy include adding to the wonderful St. Louis campus a feeling of student empowerment and school pride. The old school mascot (a bear) is mostly unknown to students. Because she feels the importance of creating a culture of camaraderie and pride in one’s school and to celebrate the school’s 100th year in November, Diller plans to vote on a new mascot and reintroduce the school song to the school campus.

“I am mainly looking forward to welcoming all the students back and having a more direct hand in continuing St. Louis Academy on its path of excellent education and empowering the students with their responsibility of serving one another in Christ,” Diller continued.

“Catholic education is so important to me because as Catholic educators we can educate all aspects of the child and it is in our faith to see each child beyond just what they can learn in language or math,” Diller said. “Catholic education is about seeing the complete God-given potential of a child and giving them the tools through faith, education and love to get to the vocation in which God has designed for them.”

— Michelle Castleman

Lundy excited about new role at St. Vincent de Paul, Elkhart

ELKHART — A very familiar face will be greeting staff and students at St. Vincent de Paul School in Elkhart when school reopens this year. New Principal Tara Lundy has been on staff at the school for 15 years.

Lundy, her husband Matt and their two daughters are members of Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka.

Lundy graduated from Penn High School and Ball State University with a degree in education. She began her teaching career at St. Vincent de Paul School and has been there ever since. She taught sixth grade for six years and then fourth grade for three years before returning to the sixth-grade classroom.

She’s also been the assistant principal at St. Vincent for the last eight years in addition to teaching. Lundy knows the school’s strengths and challenges. She plans to continue working on the school’s math and reading goals.

“Data-driven instruction is huge here,” Lundy said, explaining that instructors collect data on individual students through computer programs, tests and observations and use that data to guide their classroom instruction.

“It allows us to better meet the needs of each student,” she said. Lundy said she’s seen a wide variety of levels at the school so meeting the needs of each student is “very important to us.”

In her new role at the school she’s looking forward to helping the students and the staff meet their individual goals. “Being their cheerleader and helping them to meet their goals and make the most of their potential,” she said.

Lundy said she’s also looking forward to getting to know the St. Vincent families better, especially those of the younger students.

“I think this school is awesome. When you come in here you can just feel the warm, fuzzy feeling, and I want to continue that so that parents know this is a safe place to send their kids and feel that the school is open to them as well,” she said.

Lundy is also excited about the fact that the school will be adding a seventh grade this year and plans to add an eighth-grade level next year.

Lundy is looking forward to the possibility of extending the school’s prayer service to a Family Faith Night.

“My heart is here — there’s no other place I’d rather be,” she said. “I knew I loved this place and want to work real hard to do what’s best for the school, students, staff and parents.”

— Denise Fedorow

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