Although she has been officially on board at St. John Brebeuf School for almost two months, she was as excited as the kids on the first day of school on Aug. 21.
“I’m so lucky to be here. This is such a wonderful place,” said Dr. Mary C. Maloney, who became principal of the Niles school July 1.
The new principal’s philosophy of education is simple. “It drills down to this,” she says. “We’re going to do everything we can to help each child learn.” Dr. Maloney adds, education must prepare children for a world that hasn’t formed yet and we must send students into the world—whatever it may be—with broad thinking and reasoning skills and the ability to work with other people.
Addressing technology and education, Dr. Maloney said “We need to have children use technology as a tool. We live in a world that is steeped in technology, but we need to use it ethically and for specific purposes. It’s a tool that helps facilitate learning, but it doesn’t replace learning. Students still need to do the thinking and the hard work themselves.” Calling technology one pathway for students to get the knowledge that they need, she cautioned that we always must remember that it is just one pathway.
“One of the things I really like about Catholic education is the fact that we immerse and infuse kindness into everything else that we do,” she says. “The missing piece of the puzzle in public schools is faith formation.”
That perspective comes from her wide-ranging background which includes working as an elementary teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, with extensive experience working in violence-torn communities on the city’s west side. She has also worked as a curriculum and instruction specialist and assistant principal at Woodland District and Little Woods School in St. Charles; and principal of Glenbrook Elementary School and Pleasant Hill School in Palatine. Her other work experience includes two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Africa, where she taught French-speaking African junior high and high school students English as a foreign language.
One of the things she most appreciates about her new position at the Niles school is the sense of community that embodies SJB. “There is a sense of peacefulness here. It’s a peaceful place that focuses on what’s best for children,” she says. With that focus, the school embraces innovation. “The staff is very excited about best practice and the latest research about learning,” she says.
She believes education is bigger than school walls, so Dr. Maloney also has some ideas about being present not only with children and parents, but the parish and community as well and cites multiple things that will be done to make sure that this happens. “I’ll be present in classrooms and present when children are arriving and departing, I will be able to see if a child is having a difficult day or see a child who looks sad,” she says.
She also plans to have informal coffees with parents, the School Advisory Board and all of the different groups that participate in the school. “I’m reaching out to the entire parish to bring everybody together and facilitating different pathways for people to use their individual gifts to build on the good work that’s already been done,” says Dr. Maloney.
“It’s up to adults to make sure that children know how to get along with each other, know how to think on their feet and get the content they need,” says the new principal who sees herself as a facilitator for learning. “But then they need to know what to do with those skills.”
“Parents are turning over their most precious gift to us and it’s a privilege to be able to help shape the lives of those children,” she says. “We don’t take that lightly; we take it very seriously.”
Dr. Maloney is no stranger to Catholic faith and education. Her uncle is a priest, her father was a deacon, and two of her aunts were nuns. Her doctorate is from Loyola University in Chicago in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Her master’s is in Curriculum and Instruction from DePaul University in Chicago, and her undergraduate degree is from the University of Notre Dame.