Having spent much of her life in Catholic schools, Mary Kate Koecheler knows well the benefits of a faith-based educational setting.
She attended elementary school at St. Louis in Pittsford, high school at Our Lady of Mercy in Brighton and college at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh — all Catholic institutions. In addition, Koecheler logged the past four years teaching at Brighton’s Seton Catholic School before becoming its principal effective Aug. 1.
“The Catholic-school bond, it’s hard to explain,” she said. “I loved St. Louis and Mercy. We prayed every morning before every meal, before every snack. It’s really cool to see kids grow up in the church. My parents put four of us through Catholic schools, and I remember hearing other families question my mom about it. What my mom said to them, and continues to say to me, is that it’s about the intangibles — not the things you can feel and touch, but about what Catholic schools teach — kindness, patience, loving your neighbor, promoting God’s work.”
New principal looks forward to leading a ‘wonderful community’
Koecheler, whose maiden name is Dahlkemper, grew up in Fairport and attended St. Louis Parish. At Duquesne, she earned bachelor’s degrees in communications and art history and a master’s in elementary education. After a few years of living in New York City, she served in the Rochester City School District in 2016-17 and 2017-18 as an academic intervention services teacher at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School No. 10. In 2018-19, she began at Seton, where she has taught fifth and sixth grades with an emphasis on math.
As Seton’s first-year principal, Koecheler replaces Patricia Selig who recently began as coordinator of assessment and professional growth in the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools. Selig succeeds Ann Frank, who is retiring.
Koecheler noted that she has nearly completed requirements for her administration certification from the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, doing so on a sponsorship from the Diocese of Rochester. The sponsorship supports principals who have been promoted from teaching positions but still need to complete course work for their new roles.
Koecheler starts the 2022-23 school year at Seton with 220 students. The prekindergarten through grade 6 school is located on the campus of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, where Bishop Salvatore R. Matano celebrated Mass for the school Sept. 23.
“I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to lead such a wonderful community and am looking forward to having a great year,” Koecheler said. “Our parents here, they’re so dedicated. They volunteer for whatever you need them for. The PTA is incredible. You couldn’t ask for a better school community.”
Koecheler aims to foster the sense of closeness she experienced as a Catholic-school student
Koecheler said she keeps in touch with many friends from her time as a Catholic-school student, and aims to foster a similar sense of closeness as Seton’s principal — a closeness that’s been profoundly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m so excited to welcome back our community, kind of have the school go back to pre-COVID ways with all the things we’ve had to put on the back burner these last two years. I mean, you name it, it’s been cancelled,” she said, listing concerts, family picnics and other social events as examples. “What we were lacking, because we had to lack it, was this sense of community. We’re hoping parents can start becoming friends with one another, hang out with each other again.”
Koecheler noted that she first became familiar with Seton as a school parent: her son Colin is a fourth-grader there, and daughter Libby is in second grade. Koecheler’s family, which also includes her husband, Paul, are Rochester residents and belong to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
Although Koecheler hasn’t taught either of her own kids during her four years thus far at Seton, she now becomes their principal.
“Luckily, neither of them spend much time in the principal’s office — so let’s hope it stays that way,” she quipped.Tags: Catholic Schools, Monroe County East