Retiring Horseheads principal values team approach - Catholic Courier
Marilyn Zinn, longtime principal at St. Mary Our Mother School in Horseheads, will retire at the end of this school year. Marilyn Zinn, longtime principal at St. Mary Our Mother School in Horseheads, will retire at the end of this school year.

Retiring Horseheads principal values team approach

HORSEHEADS — Converting to Catholicism at the age of 31 marked more than a new chapter in Marilyn Zinn’s spiritual life.

The experience also had a significant effect on her career path — that of a Catholic-school teacher and administrator.

“I’ve considered it a gift, being called to the faith. I’ve had so many blessings; so many wonderful things have been given to me and I’ve had that sense of giving back,” Zinn said. “I’ve never thought about leaving this, leaving Catholic-school education, never even considered that.”

Following a 29-year career at three Southern Tier schools — including the last 14 years as principal of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads — Zinn, 65, has opted to retire effective June 30. Her replacement has not yet been announced.

Zinn, a native of Elmira, attended public schools and graduated from Southside High School. Prior to becoming an educator, she held a variety of clerical and office jobs. She attended Mansfield University and Elmira College, and spent six years at home raising her daughter, Carmen, whom she and her late husband, Bill, had adopted as an infant. Carmen is now 34, and granddaughter Emma is 10.

In 1986, Zinn began with Elmira’s Holy Family Catholic Schools, teaching first grade for the next 12 years. In 1998, she moved to All Saints Academy in Corning, where she served as principal of prekindergarten through first grade. After three years in that position, she became principal of St. Mary Our Mother. She received her certification of advanced study from SUNY Brockport.

Zinn noted that her administrative style over the years has been one of collaboration.

“Everything we tend to do here is a team effort — parents, faculty, staff,” she said. “No one does anything alone. All the people, we’ve always made a good team. We’ve always been able to look at the big picture.”

Zinn added that she’s appreciated the teamwork achieved with Father Christopher Linsler, longtime pastor of St. Mary Our Mother Parish.

“We have a wonderful working relationship. I would consider him a friend,” she said.

In turn, Father Linsler referred to Zinn as “the consummate professional” whose door has always been open for anybody who needed her time — a principal who has “won the respect of the entire parish community,” he said.

In addition, Zinn has emphasized fostering strong one-on-one relationships with her students.

“I remember what one of my college professors said: ‘Take the policies, procedures and manuals and put them over here, because when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, it’s two people having a conversation,'” she remarked. “You have to let them know you’re real, you’re just like they are, and bring that piece of yourself to the table.”

Zinn also is a believer in maintaining positive connections with the community at large, through numerous school projects that benefit local agencies, families and individuals.

“We’re called upon to give back to others,” Zinn said, adding that it’s important for the students “to see there are other people, people in need, be it a clothing drive, a food drive.”

Enrollment at St. Mary Our Mother has been consistent under Zinn’s guidance, with 136 students in prekindergarten through sixth grade this year. Zinn noted that approximately the same amount are already registered for 2015-16.

“The last three or four years, we have actually grown a little bit,” she said.

She voiced pride about the many other positive aspects of her school: a faculty with minimal turnover; official accreditation status through 2017; modern programs and facilities; and the recent opening of a prekindergarten for 3-year-olds in the former convent adjacent to the school. In fact, St. Mary Our Mother’s stability played into Zinn’s decision to retire at this time, she said.

“I just know the timing is right. I feel the school is wonderfully positioned to move forward,” she commented.

Zinn, a parishioner of Elmira’s St. Mary Southside Church, said she plans to stay busy in retirement but knows there is one aspect she will definitely find hard to replace elsewhere.

“Seeing the children and getting the hugs, I’m going to miss that. I don’t know if anything could fill that in,” she said.

Tags: Chemung County News
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