Lois Widner Principal of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School

Q1: 1. At what point did you decide to dedicate your life to children and their education?

“In junior high school I helped with Sunday school at St. Charles Church. I knew I wanted at that time to work with children. In high school, I worked at IPFW in child care. At Bishop Dwenger I was in the band and we worked with young adults who were emotionally, physically and mentally challenged. Looking back on that now, this was such a rewarding experience. At Purdue I majored in elementary education with a minor in kindergarten. I ended up teaching 5th grade and then junior high language arts and 8th grade religion. I loved that age group. When I began teaching, I experienced a few principals along the way who were very dedicated. That is when I got the ‘itch’ for administration. I wanted to be able to reach not just 30 or more in a room but help more students and teachers as well. ”

Q2: What is the most rewarding and hardest parts of your job?

“The most rewarding part is being able to see the turnaround in a student. In my 31 years as an educator, (23 as a principal) I have taught a variety of levels of students. I have encouraged many teachers to open their hearts to students who need their guidance, compassion and educational experience to help them be successful. I worked with a young man who came to us in the primary grades with autism and I was ever so proud when he graduated in 8th grade. He had made huge strides with his accomplishments. It is wonderful to see how young men and women have grown and become successful. The hardest part of the job has been the failures, and yes, there have been a few failures. Sometimes our school cannot offer a program for a child or we have not been the best suited for a child. It does break my heart that I cannot help every child. Also, the job is difficult when tragedy has happened- the loss of a child, a parent, a teacher. That is when our school comes together as family and supports those who are mourning the loss.”

Q3: What other aspects of your life do you incorporate into your job?

“I am a faith-filled person and strong Catholic. I bring my Catholic identity to our Catholic school. We educate the whole child at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School: academically, physically, emotionally, behaviorally, and most importantly, spiritually! I also cantor at my church on the weekend; so that I can bring my gift of music to our school Masses.”

Q4: What advice would you give to someone who is going into the educational field?

“Get as much experience as you can in high school volunteering with children. Also, when you are looking into a college program, look for an elementary or high school program that will get field experience right away at the freshman level.”

Q5: What does your future hold, as far as education goes?

“After 16 years of being a two campus school, St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School will be closed at the end of June 2014. Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne- South Bend, has a beautiful vision to open two schools to serve the Fort Wayne area. St. Joseph School will serve the inner city community and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School will serve students in Southwest Allen County. After being principal for 11 years at St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School, I will be moving to our new school, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School. This will be an exciting adventure!”

Lois Widner Principal of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School

Written by Addi Tomlinson, Guest Writer | Photo by Bonnie Manning, Feature Photographer

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