Humbled. Overwhelmed. Excited. Nervous.
Those are just a few of the mixed bag of emotions SISTER M. BRIDGET MARTIN has felt since being named the new high school principal at St. Thomas More last month.
Another: “surprised,” given that the position wasn’t one she sought out. “I was asked by the superintendent of the school and the diocese of Peoria” if she’d be interested in filling the position held the past three years by Jason Schreder. “Definitely not a conventional way to get the job but it may have helped that I was a teacher at the school for a number of years.”
With the start of classes just around the corner, our Jose Zepeda caught up with the St. Louis area native, an alumna of Ohio’s Franciscan University of Steubenville. For more of their conversation, go to news-gazette.com.
When it comes to my faith ... everything I do, I try to follow God’s will. That is really why I accepted the position. I saw it as something God was asking me to do. ... Being a part of Christian life is trusting God and his plan. My days start at 4:30 in the morning and I begin the day in prayer. A lot of what I do is also community-oriented. We live our lives community-oriented. Community building is so important.
Five years from now ... I hope we grow our enrollment and see school in its full potential of Catholic identity. And I hope to see students be formed well in this environment. I also hope to see the sports do well, as well as other programs, and I hope the music program in our school grows.
Away from school ... I like to go on bike rides. I like to ride to the UI Arboretum or to different stores or the library.
When faced with a stressful situation ... I try to be honest. Keep my cool. A lot of prayer, trying to be attentive to the moment and people around me. Common sense.
My favorite movie of all-time is ... ‘Wonder Woman’ — because of the storyline and I enjoyed the story behind the movie, as well. It is because it’s in a World War I time period and that might just be the history nerd in me enjoying it.
As for a favorite book ... of course, it’s the Bible. Ha-ha. But I would also add ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to that list, as well. I am currently reading ‘Kristin Lavransdatter,’ by Sigrid Undset. It is historical fiction novel set in 14th century Norway. It is kind of a classic.
Do you have any ideas that you want to implement for the school? What are they?
Just continuing with the fairly new house system we implemented to the school. Students are placed into homerooms that last from their freshman year to their senior year. It stared 2 years ago and I am excited to see if grow and watch students take leadership roles.
We have to ask, is this like the house system seen in the Harry Potter movies?
Kind of, but we don’t do wizardry. There are competitions to do through the house system, so it is the same in that respect but we are mainly trying to build a community and fellowships, so I guess there are similarities there as well. It’s pretty similar, but just no magic.
How did you prepare for your new position?
For the last few weeks I have been talking a lot with Jason Schreder, the outgoing principal. I have also been talking to other principals at other catholic institutions and in the area. Finally, I have been talking to the school’s secretaries because they are really the ones who run the school. I ask how were things run in the past.
Before becoming principal, where else have you worked? How did you get to this point in your life?
I became a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Martyr Saint George in 2003 and from there, finished getting my college degree in secondary education and in history at Franciscan University Steubenville in Ohio. From there, I went on to teach for six months in New Jersey and later transferred to Kansas. For six years I taught US History and AP US History. Then came to St. Thomas More where I taught more history and last year, I was a theology teacher.
What as your very first job? How much did you get paid for it?
Growing up I was a baby sitter, but my first real job was at a place called Garden Villa South retirement home. There, I was a server. It was a high school job and I was making $8.25 an hour. It’s not a lot but at the time I thought I was getting rich.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like to read. I like to do paper crafting. I like to do sewing as well. I learned from watching my mom. I also like to spend quality time with people.
What is your favorite food? Do you prefer this food homemade or from a particular restaurant?
Pizza. I’m not picky with my pizza. I do like to make my own because I get to put whatever I want on it, but since I am from St. Louis, I really like St. Louis style pizza. It has a really thin curst and features a really creamy Provel cheese.
Do you have a dream location, whether it is for a vacation or to live at?
I enjoy wherever I am. I enjoy every place that I have been to, though my favorite has to be Poland. It has so much history and Catholic World Prayer Day. I would go back in heartbeat. It has a beautiful country side and it was a unique place to visit.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? What are they?
It sounds nerdy, but it’s got to be reading a book that I enjoy. The book doesn’t have to do with what I’m teaching.
Are you proud to work at St. Thomas More? Why?
The fact that we are the only Catholic school in the area and county and the fact that we are striving to give an education to the whole person and striving to make great young individuals.
Do you have anything to say to the students of St. Thomas More?
This year is going to be really good if they push in the classroom and their extracurriculars.
How about for the faculty and staff?
Trust the process of transition and be open to whatever it is the school year will bring for all of us.
How did you become the new principal at St. Thomas More?
I was just asked by the superintendent of the school and of the diocese of Peoria. I was just asked to be as such. Definitely not a conventional way to get the job bought it may have helped I was a teacher at the school for a number of years.
Is there anything you are looking forward to in your new position?
I am looking forward to being able to interact with students and families on a different level. One of my favorite things about being a teacher is getting to know the students and I now get to do this from a different perspective.
Are you excited or nervous? Why?
A little bit of both. Nervous because there has been a lot of change to the school in recent years but also excited because the direction the school is heading in is really positive.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the St. Louis area pretty much my whole life.
Obviously since you are a sister, you have devoted your life to your faith. What is that like?
Everything I do, I try to follow God’s will. That is really why I accepted the position. I saw it as something God was asking me to do. I was not necessarily seeking out the position for myself. Being a part of Christian life is trusting God and his plan. My days start at 4:30 in the morning and I begin the day in prayer. A lot of what I do is also community oriented. We live our lives community oriented. Community building is so important.
Do you have any pets? If so, what? If not, why?
We do not. The other sisters and I are usually gone in summertime to visit family. Since everyone leaves the house in the summer, that is why we don’t have a pet.
Do you have any funny stories from your time at St. Thomas More?
It was kind of funny when we have assemblies and have competitions. As director of the house program, I have to run those and it is funny to see how into students and teachers are really passionate and participate even if they look ridiculous. It brings lots of joy and laughter.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
For everybody to keep an eye out for all the information we have coming soon to celebrate the school.