‘Of the way of Mary’

New vice principal at Notre Dame Prep already working hard to maintain school's strong academic and mission-centered reputation. 

When recently named Notre Dame Prep Vice Principal Kimberly Anderson originally hired on at the Pontiac school as a Spanish teacher in the fall of 1997, she brought with her a legacy of strong academics and the guidance of Marists from Notre Dame High School in Harper Woods, Mich.

She said that school helped cast a solid die in her of what it means to be an educator working in a school sponsored by the Society of Mary.

"I started teaching Spanish full time at Notre Dame High School in the fall of 1995 after graduating from Western Michigan University," said Anderson. "At NDHS, I was blessed to work with some of the school's legendary teachers: Conrad Vachon, Hal Rice, Norm Kotarski, Duane Holmes and Bill Raymond. It was their guidance to a rookie teacher that helped shape me to be the educator that I am today.

"They modeled professionalism, compassion, fairness and humor while guiding me in becoming a Marist teacher."

Humble, honest, generous at heart

Anderson first spoke with then-NDP principal Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., in 1997 about coming to Notre Dame Prep and was immediately impressed with the opportunity to work at a young Marist school. She transferred to Pontiac Notre Dame in the fall of 1997 and has been on the Giddings Road campus ever since.

She says the opportunity to work with still more exemplary educators continued unabated at NDP.

"It's at this school where I've met, worked with and became part of an educational family with many of the state's finest teachers," said Anderson, who grew up in west Michigan and attended Catholic schools in Coopersville, a largely farming community west of Grand Rapids.

"Teachers like Kathy Bembas, Donna Kotzan, Greg Simon, Dave Osiecki, Fr. Joe Hindelang, Fr. Jim Strasz and Ellen Tessada. Actually, Ellen Tessada was my department chair and mentor for many years and helped nurture my passion for teaching language. I've learned from both Ellen and Donna Kotzan, who also was a vice-principal here, about the importance of being humble, honest, generous at heart, encouraging of others and open to God's calling — all characteristics of the way of Mary." 

But it was her early years in Coopersville and one of her teachers back then that first kindled Anderson's love of Spanish and, more importantly, the value of a mission-informed Catholic education. 

"At St. Michael's in Cooperville, we had a traveling teacher who would visit our classroom every Friday to teach us a little bit a Spanish," she recalls. "She would visit our classroom with her shopping cart of lessons and inspire us to speak and sing Spanish whenever possible. She also encouraged us to use our language skills to help others."

That 'a-ha' moment

Coopersville had a large migrant population in the summer and fall and it was Anderson's Spanish teacher who encouraged her to volunteer at the surrounding migrant farms and help many of the families learn English. 

"I believe that was my initial calling — or 'a-ha moment' — when I connected how having a talent and love for speaking and learning another language could help others," she said.

And it was that talent and love for academics that led Anderson to wear many of the hats she's worn since she came to Notre Dame Prep, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

"I have been blessed to serve as a Spanish teacher, department chair, assistant principal of attendance and discipline, ISACS steering committee member, senior class moderator, Spanish Honor Society moderator and IB Diploma coordinator," she said. "In addition, both of my sons started at Notre Dame in pre-kindergarten, so, now wearing my 'parent hat,' I've had the experience of all three divisions of this school. NDPMA is a welcoming community that actually feels more like my family. In fact, Fr. Joe married my husband and me and baptized both of our boys."

As she begins the new school year as vice principal of NDP, Anderson, who takes over from the now-retired Shari Derico, is looking forward to seeing all the kids again on campus next week. She also wants to point out that her previous position as IB-Diploma Program coordinator is in very good hands. 

"Katrina Sagert, who was the IB-MYP coordinator for grades 9-10, will be taking over the Diploma Program this year," Anderson said. "Last year, she also taught IB English (DP), so taking over the DP was a natural move for her. Plus, she's familiar with the curriculum requirements and has taught many of the same students in the program. The two of us actually have been sharing an office and working very closely to align the MYP and the DP in order to create a natural transition for any student who wishes to pursue the Diploma Program. Katrina is very patient, compassionate and caring, and her knowledge of her subject area coupled with her expertise in academic curricula makes her an excellent choice to be the IB-DP coordinator." 

Impressive shoes to fill

Anderson also notes that Katherine Thomas will be taking over Sagert's position as IB-MYP coordinator for grades 9-10 in addition to her MYP 6-8 coordinator role. 

"This also is a natural fit," Anderson said. "Katherine is very knowledgeable of the MYP at the middle-school level and adding grades 9 and 10 was a logical decision and will continue to smooth the transition for our students from the middle school to the high school." 

Paul Frank will continue as PYP coordinator in the lower school, Anderson noted. 

"Katrina, Katherine, Paul and I have become a very cohesive group over the last five or six years," she said. "I will still be working closely with Katherine and Katrina, but now just in a different capacity."

Anderson also wanted to say that she's filling some very impressive shoes in her new position.

"As vice principal, Shari Derico was very passionate about creating a student-centered learning environment that helped our kids become successful, lifelong learners," she said. "I've worked with her most of my time here at NDP and consider her to be an integral part of my experience as both a teacher and an administrator. She will be missed!" 

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

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About Notre Dame 
Notre Dame is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named Michigan's best 50 Catholic high school three of the last four years (Niche.com). Notre Dame's lower and middle schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All Notre Dame schools have been authorized by International Baccalaureate as "World Schools" and the entire institution is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers. It is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org