Becoming Vice Principal

October 23, 2020

8 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#18 in a series of 25 short stories

1986 through 1997 Vice Principal at St. Mary of the Valley / Valley Catholic High School

I was happy as a clam teaching at St. Mary of the Valley High School.  I was minding my own business, doing my own thing when all of a sudden, Sister Alberta retired from her position as Vice Principal to move on to less demanding work at the convent as religious women do not use the word “retirement”.  Sister Alberta had a formidable presence standing 6’2” tall with a great poker face when she needed it.  Most of the time she was laughing and telling stories but when something needed dealt with, she could put on the façade of serious business.

During Christmas break the year prior to her “retirement” three students showed up at school three sheets to the wind and one of them “lost their cookies” at my classroom door.  I remember Sr. Alberta having to deal with that issue the entire Chrismas break.  I thought to myself, “I could never do that.”  You guessed it, the following fall, I was “it” and I was terrified.

Chuck Lee was principal at the time and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.  My first major case came not too long after the beginning of school when a couple of girls (we were still all girl at the time) were smoking behind the gym.  I gave them all of seven minutes to get to my office which should have taken them less than one minute.  I had to go ask Chuck Lee what we were going to do now!  J  I like to tell this story because it illustrates so perfectly the fact that we don’t know how to do some of our jobs immediately and it takes a little time to learn. 

I went to Chucks office and told him what was going on and asked him, “what now?”  He told me to bring them to his office and he would talk to them.  I brought the girls to his office, they were scared to death, so was I.  I am pretty sure I was shaking but they didn’t know that.  Chuck could not have been kinder to them.  He was firm, had a good conversation with them and suspended them for three days.  I learned a lot in that encounter, and I liked the way he dealt with the situation.  He was a wonderful mentor to me, and I have always appreciated those years working with him.

I will say over the course of the next 10 years in that role, I learned to deal with all sorts of situations.  Every encounter gave me an opportunity to help someone get back on track and find their way again.  In addition to what any of my actions may have done to help others, the role developed my courage and confidence.  Hard as it was initially, I have encouraged people to take on similar roles, such as sport officials to help develop the spine.  Those jobs have the potential to make us better and stronger people.

One thought on “Becoming Vice Principal

  1. Sr. Alberta was principal while I was attending SMVA in the 1970s. My mother & her were very friendly and she help my Mom cope with problems she was facing with my adult married sister. Mom was secretary of the Parent’s Club. They had a dinner when the new high school building was close to being finished. The food was late in being served so the champagne was poured freely. My Mom wasn’t much of a drinker. It was the first time I’d ever seen her intoxicated. Didn’t affect my Dad at all. I live in Oakland, California. I never knew until a few years ago that Sr. Alberta was originally from California. Good memories of Sr. Alberta.


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