Eight Catholic schools to start year with new principals
By Jean Torkelson
Photo by James Baca/DCR
Eight Catholic schools of the Denver Archdiocese are welcoming new principals this academic year. They spoke recently with the Denver Catholic Register.
Name: Sister Marirose Rudek, R.S.M.
School: St. Clare of Assisi, Edwards
Hometown: Newburgh, N.Y.
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, University of Denver
Service: 11 years in education
“My mom is a teacher, so education has always been part of my family background. I love working with young people, and did a lot of informal teaching when I was younger. So when I became a (Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Mich.) and was asked to go into education, it was not a sad thing for me! I studied to be an English teacher, and wanted to go into secondary education because I was interested in working with older students and in being able to teach them their faith as part of their development.
“I love Catholic education so much, and the Holy Father has designated this year as the Year of Faith, so one of my goals as principal is to help educate the whole community. I really believe we are a community of learners. I would like to focus on having a catechesis for students and for families—it’s such an important piece of Catholic education. My goal is to help everyone grow, not just in academics, but spiritually as well.”
Name: Sandra Howard
School: Assumption, Denver
Hometown: Durban, South Africa
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Edgewood College of Education, Pinetown, South Africa; Master’s degree, University of Phoenix
Service: 24 years in education
“I have always loved teaching. It’s what I wanted to do since I was young and I never doubted my choice. Right from the beginning I always enjoyed being around children and sharing my knowledge, and learning from them as well. To see the looks on their faces when you share knowledge with them and see that they understand, and to develop a relationship with them, is priceless.
“I was a principal for four-and-a-half years before this, at Presentation of Our Lady (Denver). My goal as principal, then and now, is to foster a sense of community at the school; to give the kids a great education and help them enjoy being where they are; and to help them develop their faith life.”
Name: Tate Hallahan
School: Holy Trinity School, Westminster
Hometown: Denver and Thornton
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Master’s degree, University of Phoenix
Service: 10 years in education
“I believe in service to humanity, and I believe that one of the greatest gifts I received growing up was education from my teachers. I had some very inspirational teachers, which really changed how I viewed the world and how I interacted with people. I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to give back to people, and to serve and teach them. To me, this is not just a career, but my vocation.
“My goal as principal is to help Holy Trinity recognize that it is a beautiful, supportive community. With a little bit of direction and focus I believe we can turn the school into a premier school for Westminster that supports Catholic identity and encourages enrichment, offers many after-school programs and gives parents a place to contribute their ideas and talents. My immediate goal is to focus on reading and writing and collect that data to share with parents, the archdiocese and the wider community so that we can constantly test and improve our effectiveness.
Name: Sister Rose Mary Balappa, O.L.M.
School: St. Joseph, Fort Collins
Hometown: Bangalore, India
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Georgian Court University, Lakewood, N.J.; Master’s degree, Fordham University, N.Y.
Service: 12 years teaching, 5 years as principal
“My third grade teacher was also my principal and she inspired me to be a sister (Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy) as well as a principal. It’s what I wanted to give to the world—to teach and to learn. I am constantly learning and living out my faith and religious belief. I want to teach the Gospel to the kids and to teach them to live it.
“My goal as principal is to make one community and to make this a faith-filled year. I want the (school) community to be faith-filled and to be closer to Jesus, to the St. Joseph’s (parish) community, and to the families. And I want to improve the academics.”
Name: Bernadette (Detty) Hensen
School: Christ the King, Denver
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Newman University, Wichita, Kan.; Master’s degree, Regis University, Denver
Service: 12 years in education
“Teaching is actually my second career—for many years I worked in health care administration for a Denver hospital system. While subbing at Notre Dame Catholic School I fell in love with teaching, and I am a strong advocate of Catholic education. I am a product of Catholic schools, I educated my children in Catholic schools, and I value the focus on formation of the whole child, academic and spiritual.
“My goal this year is to listen and to learn about the community that I am going to serve. I want to be totally open to whatever gifts and challenges I am presented with at Christ the King.”
Name: Mary Ellen Chavez
School: Presentation of Our Lady, Denver
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, University of Colorado; Principal’s license from University of Denver
Service: 30-plus years in teaching and administration
“I love working with children, and now, in Catholic schools, I want to impart my faith, my Christian and Catholic values, to help the students spiritually and academically. As a bilingual teacher in Denver Public Schools for more than 30 years, and as an administrator—I was assistant principal for 15 years—I learned how to manage a building and run a school, and how to be an instructional leader. I have also worked in a lot of lower-income Hispanic schools. I am actually one of those Hispanic kids myself, so I know we can succeed if we really try. My goal as principal is to help increase enrollment and to succeed in building a strong community for parents and student learners—and to be there to support them.”
Name: Glenda Oliver
School: St. Stephen, Glenwood Springs
Hometown: Aspen and Basalt in the Roaring Fork Valley
Education: Bachelor’s degrees, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley; Master’s degree, Western Governors University, Salt Lake City, and Regis University, Denver
Service: 17 years in education
“I always wanted to be a teacher, although I got a little dissuaded by some honors English classes—still, I always knew I wanted to do something with kids and books. Then, after I had my own children, we would sit around with friends and other young parents and lament about education today. We were all very worried about where to send our children to get a good education and we kept saying, ‘If only somebody would do something about it!’ Then it hit me—‘Wait a minute, I am somebody!’ I decided my mission was to become part of the solution.
“As principal I hope to help build a bridge between our church and school, and draw in our weekend religious education people to make them feel more a part of the teaching staff. I would also like to reach out more to our Latino community. Together with staff, parents and the whole community, I believe we can take St. Stephen’s from a very good school to a great school.”
Name: Sister Mary Rose Lieb, O.S.F.
School: St. Francis de Sales, Denver
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Ohio Dominican University, Columbus, Ohio; Master’s degrees at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., and Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.
Service: 33 years in education
“What do I like about being in education? I love children and I love faculty—children and teachers are my favorite kind of people. You never let grass grow under your feet when you’re around children, and teachers like what they do. I’m able to do what I love, and do it while addressing the whole person, talking about faith and about Jesus Christ—it makes for a perfect world!
“As for goals, I’ve been a principal for a number of years—I was principal at Holy Family High School for 18 years—and each assignment suggests different goals. I hope to take St. Francis de Sales to the next level in academics and in teaching the whole person. I want the school to be here, five, 10, 20 years from now, so I want to work on making it sustainable for years to come.”
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3122; www.twitter.com/DCRegister