Education wasn’t Lorie Brink’s original career choice; her bachelor’s degree was in sociology and after college she worked mostly in public relations. But in the early 1990s, with no teaching experience, she accepted a position at Crayon Campus, a private preschool/kindergarten in the Rochester area.
Quickly working her way from classroom assistant to head teacher, Brink knew she’d found her vocation.
"It was kind of a fluke that I got into education," she recalled. "I absolutely fell in love with the work, the families and the children. Right there, that’s when I decided to start taking education courses."
Brink went on to obtain a master’s degree in education and log a successful teaching career. She also kept a thought tucked in the back of her mind "that someday I would love to get into administration."
That wish was realized this past summer when Brink was named the new principal of Holy Family Elementary School in Elmira after two years of teaching first grade there. She replaces Bernadette McClelland, who served as principal for six years before announcing her resignation in the spring of 2011.
Brink, 47, is an Elmira native who graduated from Southside High School. In 1986 she earned her bachelor’s degree from Nazareth College of Rochester, and in 1994 received her master’s degree in elementary education from Elmira College after moving back to the Southern Tier.
Her lengthiest position has been eight years in the Corning-Painted Post School District beginning In the late 1990s, teaching first through third grades. She resigned while expecting her second child, and planned to be a permanent stay-at-home mom — with the only exception being if a first-grade teaching slot ever opened up near home. Sure enough, one became available at Holy Family Elementary School.
"I never expected to be back at work again," Brink remarked. She began at Holy Family in the fall of 2009 and "just loved the school," saying she appreciates an environment where she can "talk about my faith, sink my teeth into it."
Brink applied for the principal’s position in late May and found out a month later — while vacationing at the Outer Banks — that she’d gotten it. This is her first administrative post in education.
"I have to tell you, I was just very, very happy and excited," Brink said. "It was big; this is important to me. It was such an honor to be chosen."
Her goals as leader of Holy Family Elementary are "to continue to keep the school as a warm, loving environment" and "continue its existence and its importance in the community. It’s so important to have a Catholic school as a choice."
Brink acknowledged that maintaining the school’s vitality is no simple task, since two years ago Holy Family Catholic Schools consolidated from a three-school system into two as a response to declining enrollment and budgetary concerns. Holy Family Elementary, located at the former St. Mary School, houses prekindergarten through grade 5; and Holy Family Middle School, at the former St. Casimir School, accommodates grades 6-8.
Yet Brink looks to the future with confidence, citing the unique opportunity to learn in a faith-filled environment — "there’s a lot of prayer involved here, of course" — and a top-notch staff.
"The nice thing about a Catholic school is, we know we’re getting the teachers where salary isn’t that much of an issue. For the most part, it’s love of the job. We offer a staff that’s very qualified and dedicated. Our staff is here after hours, before hours," Brink said, extending additional praise to the many parent volunteers who support the school.
Brink and her family belong to St. Mary Southside Parish in Elmira, the same church campus where Holy Family Elementary is located. Her daughter, Olivia, is entering her senior year at Notre Dame High School; and her son, Michael, is beginning kindergarten at Holy Family Elementary. In addition, her husband, Mike, joined the Catholic Church this past Easter after taking part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.
"We’re committed to going to Mass as a family — front row, every week," she said. "My heart and soul are in the community and the church."