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Interim principal leads Sacred Heart through extended eLearning

Cathy (Meiners) Bremmer ’81, a long-time teacher in the New Albany Deanery, accepted the interim principal job at Sacred Heart Catholic School for the 2019-2020 school year intending it to be a one-year term. Quickly, she found that she loved the job, and after ending her first year leading the school through its first extended distance learning, she has been named the principal for the school. Here is a look at her experience:

What do you enjoy about being principal?

I have taught in the New Albany Deanery schools for 33 years and have always enjoyed working with the students and the teachers. 

I went into teaching for my love of children and the joy I feel when helping them learn new things and grow to be the best they can be. I also enjoy working with my colleagues, figuring out solutions and best practices and helping each other be the best teachers we could be.  Becoming principal allows me to continue to work with students and teachers in a very fulfilling way. I could support students and teachers and help lead the school as a whole to be a great place to learn and work with students and families.  

You started off the year as interim principal. What changed that you agreed to become principal for another year or more?

I have enjoyed being the interim principal for Sacred Heart Catholic. Sacred Heart has wonderful staff, students, and families, and I feel blessed to be able to help each group.  I have been asked to continue as principal for the upcoming school year and have agreed to do so. It is an honor to be able to make a difference for a community I care deeply about.

What has been the most challenging part of being a principal, especially a first-time principal, during extended eLearning?

Being principal encompasses so many jobs especially in a small Catholic school. Juggling all the jobs, things that come up naturally, being there to help teachers, students, and parents, all while learning the job was quite the challenge and led to even longer days and nights. 

Although as the director of technology (her prior role) I had helped get Sacred Heart prepared for eLearning, the extended eLearning due to COVID-19 brought new challenges. I am so proud of how our teachers jumped right in and adjusted as needed and also of our students and families that worked with us to make this as positive and successful as possible. Trying to make the best of the extended eLearning, keeping teachers, students, and parents connected and highlighting the positives in a situation that was out of our control and continually being flexible is a challenge but one Sacred Heart has achieved.

How did Sacred Heart have to adjust to provide eLearning?

Sacred Heart had already been using eLearning days for snow days and to allow for whole-school professional development days. The extended eLearning meant we had to teach all new concepts outside the classroom. We used live, online Google Meets and prerecorded video lessons to introduce new concepts. The Google Meets also helped us stay connected with our students, which is so very important. 

One thing that was key was flexibility. Our students and their families were of course affected by the pandemic in many different ways, and we needed to adjust while maintaining appropriate expectations so that our students would continue their academic growth and be ready for the next grade level.  Our resource team stepped up and helped teachers work with students that needed a little more assistance. We reinvented some of our traditions and everyday routines to try and maintain some normalcy during this abnormal time. Staff also had their own adjustments to make with teaching from home and maintaining their own families at the same time. 

What creative/outside-the-box/out-of-your-comfort-zone things have you done during extended eLearning?

I would have never ever thought I would do a Facebook Live. I love helping people and doing what I can to support and build others up. I am not as comfortable being at the forefront, so putting myself on Facebook Live was definitely outside my comfort zone.   

The staff and I have switched things to online, like Stations of the Cross, eighth grader baby picture guesses, announcements, and had an eighth-grade sign parade to name a few.  

Of what in the students and staff are you most proud during the last few months?

I am so proud of the students and staff for just working together and getting through this unprecedented situation with a smile. Sure, we had our ups and downs, worries, concerns, and struggles, but on both the teacher side and student side, we continued to work together, adjust as needed, encourage one another, support one another, push ourselves to do the best we could with the given situation, and gave the rest to God.

No, this is not a perfect situation, and it is not what we would recommend for the best education, but it is what it is, and I know Sacred Heart staff and students did their very best and rocked our eLearning/non-traditional learning at home. I am also so very proud of our parents who had to become home educators and take on more than they signed up for at the beginning of this year.  I appreciate our parents working with us, understanding it was out of our control, being patient as we adjusted when needed, and also trying to look for the positives.

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