Meet Our New Principals

Categories: Around the Diocese

Six Catholic schools in the St. Cloud Diocese are welcoming new leaders this fall. Read more about them below and on the next page to find out what inspired them to pursue education, their favorite classroom memories and what their interests are outside the classroom. 

Compiled by Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully
The Visitor 

JOSEPH FERRIERO 

Principal, St. Mary School, Morris 

What inspired you to pursue a career in education: I have always wanted to be a teacher. Ever since I was small it was my dream. I started teaching preschool while I was still in college and have taught elementary and high school. My favorite has been fourth grade and middle school. I’m a certified elementary, science, special education and theater teacher.

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Joseph Ferriero

Memorable classroom experience: It’s when students tell me that I inspire them. I’ve had students here and there choose their college major and career based on my class. I have had two theater students who decided to go into technical theater and stage-managing because of their experience with me. It makes me realize how much I can touch a life.

Goals for this year: St. Mary’s is an amazing school with great people. My goal is to make sure that everyone knows that. I would like to make sure that our community knows about this incredible institution and what it has to offer.

Predicted challenges: The [school] roof collapse [June 27] has been an unforeseen challenge, but I have talented staff that has been working to make it a positive experience. The only challenge that I see is basically for myself. I’m a city boy. I’m used to being in New York surrounded by people. I have to get to know the people and what the community wants.

Progress on the roof repair: The building is not yet done, and it appears they will be working until the last minute. The staff has been working on their own time to make sure the building is ready for our students. They have come to school and gone through all of the boxes that their items have been thrown into to find what they will need to welcome back the students. They have also been a resource for each other.

Educational philosophy: Every child can learn. Each child is unique. As educators it’s our goal to treat each child as an individual and teach them in their own unique way so that every child learns. We’re not making cookies with a cookie cutter. We’ve been given this dough from parents and our job is to mold it into the best cookie it can be. That involves academic, social and spiritual growth.

Previous positions: I was an assistant principal at Transfiguration Academy in Bergenfield, N.J., special education teacher in South Orange, N.J., theater teacher at Paramus High School, N.J., and elementary teacher at St. Stephen’s School, Kearny, N.J.

Family: My mom and brothers moved to Wheaton a few years ago. My aunt (mom’s sister) had left New Jersey and moved to Florida. After being there for a year, she wanted “small town” living and someone suggested Minnesota. Her first stop was Morris, but she couldn’t afford a home here. She called around and found affordable houses in Wheaton.

My mom had gotten sick, so I called my aunt to come help take care of her. She did, and as my mom got better, all they talked about was how great Minnesota was. So, I got the call one day from my mom that she was selling her house and buying one here. Since then, all of my brothers have moved here and I’m the last one.

Hobbies: I run a web design firm, Anura Web. I’m the co-owner of Teen Drama, teendrama.org, and a founder of the West Hudson Arts and Theater Company. I have worked in community and professional theater including the Broadway musical “Lysistrata Jones.”

Theater involvement: I fell in love with theater in middle school. It was fun to get on stage and be someone different and make other people happy. I acted through high school and college. I even performed off-Broadway in New York City.


CHRISTINE FRIEDERICHS 

Principal, St. John’s Area School, Foley 

What inspired you to pursue a career in education: I was very fortunate and had great Catholic school teachers (sisters) when I was in grade school. They were loving and kind and cared about each and every one of us. I decided at a very young age that when I grew up I wanted to be a teacher just like them!

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Christine Friederichs

Memorable classroom experience: I like to tell stories when I teach. The children are on the edge of their seats, eyes glued, hanging on to every word. The stories are about my childhood or sometimes my family. They’ve become infamous over the years. Older sibling will ask their younger brother or sister if I have told the “Hood” story yet, or the one about “Leonard the Goose” or the “Cat with Nine Lives.” All my stories relate to curriculum being taught and have a lesson or a message. However, the kids think they are getting out of classwork and assignments. Little do they realize that all work is still assigned and completed — just with a lot more fun and a few extra lessons learned.

Goals for this year: My goal this year is to get to know the St. John’s Area School community, the parents and the children. I hope to help the school grow and to address the needs of the school community.

Predicted challenges: Being a brand new principal can be overwhelming. My challenge is to keep a balance in my life and try to not take on too much at once. I hope to bring lots of joy to my work, which in turn, will create a joyful environment for the staff and students.

Educational philosophy: My education philosophy is to appreciate where children are at and to respect their differences. I care deeply about children and their needs. I have always tried to “be there” for them, like an extended family — very much like the wonderful sisters who took care of me when I was in grade school.

Previous positions: I spent my first four years long-term subbing in the St. Cloud Diocese: St. Joseph School in Pierz, Sacred Heart School in Sauk Rapids and St. John’s Area School in Foley. Then I taught fourth grade at St. Anthony School in St. Cloud, first grade at St. Joseph School in Waite Park, and art at St. Anthony’s. My next 26 years were spent teaching fourth grade at St. Joseph’s/All Saint’s Academy in Waite Park.

Family: Husband: Jamie; children: Maria, Mark and Keith

Hobbies: Spending time with family up north at the cabin, traveling, reading, playing with my dog Edward and hanging out at home watching TV with my husband.


SARAH BECKER 

Dean of students and third- and fourth-grade teacher, Christ the King School, Browerville 

What inspired you to pursue a career in education:

I have always loved working with kids. I loved all of the teachers I had while attending school. I enjoy teaching and knowing it is helping children to build their future.

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Sarah Becker

Favorite classroom memory: Last year, to practice their sight words, my students used small cups with the words written on them. They practiced the word and then stacked the cup. They made towers as tall as they were! The whole school had to come and see.

Goals for this year: My goal is to collaborate with the other teachers and Father Matthew Crane to create an educational and exciting atmosphere here at Christ the King. Our school theme is “Teach Me, Lord,” Psalm 86:11. Our goal is to incorporate this theme in our daily schedule here at the school.

Predicted challenges: I don’t see challenges. I see new and exciting learning experiences for my students, other staff and me. I look forward to working with Father Matthew Crane and the other teachers here at Christ the King.

Educational philosophy: Each child is unique. They need a secure atmosphere to learn and grow in. It is my goal as an educator to help students meet their fullest potential. I help them do this by acting as a guide and letting them use their curiosity to direct their learning.

Previous positions: I subbed in surrounding schools for one year. For the last seven years, I taught at Christ the King School. I truly enjoy being here!

Family: Husband: Andy; child: Luke, 2

Hobbies: Fishing, deer hunting, card making, sewing and being with family.


MISSY JOHNSON

Lead teacher/principal, Holy Cross School, Pearl Lake/Marty

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Missy Johnson

What inspired you to pursue a career in education: I love working with kids. I love how every day is different and I get to move all day.

Memorable classroom experience: Once a student who really struggled talking got up and talked in front of the class. It is exciting watching the students’ faces light up when they accomplish something.

Goals for this year: Work on the preschool license, support communications, continue to build community, and continue to teach the children about the Catholic faith and values.

Predicted challenges: I have not been in this administration role before, so I’ll be learning what comes along with this role.

Educational philosophy: My educational philosophy is to help every child realize they can do anything as long as they try. I let them know that I am always here and I will push them because I believe in them.

Previous positions: I have worked at Talahi Elementary School in St. Cloud, Welby Elementary in South Jordan, Utah, and Holy Cross School in Pearl Lake/Marty.

Family: Husband: Michael; child: Ethan, 3

Hobbies: I love being on the farm and being outside.


BENEDICTINE SISTER SUZANNE SLOMINSKI

Principal, St. John’s/St. Andrew’s School, Meire Grove/Greenwald

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Sister Suzanne Slominski

What inspired you to pursue a career in education: When I was in fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a sister and work with children. I love kids, and I thought I could be a good influence for them.

Memorable classroom experience: My best experience is working with children and seeing them grow, mature and reach high goals.

Goals for this year: To see children receive a good Catholic education, reach their goals and respect each other.

Predicted challenges: Building enrollment.

Educational philosophy: Every child can learn when placed in the right environment.

Previous positions: teacher at the White Earth Indian Reservation; teacher, principal at St. Paul School in St. Cloud, principal at Holy Family School in Sauk Centre; computer teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Sartell, principal/teacher at St. John’s/St. Andrew’s School in Meire Grove/Greenwald; computer teacher at St. John’s/St. Andrew’s in Meire Grove/Greenwald.

What keeps you energized to continue serving in the field of education?: I believe in kids and I enjoy being with them and the teachers. I love kids, and I want them to have a good Catholic education so they can have a good start to live a good life.

Hobbies: Painting on glass, knitting and crocheting.


TONYA ZIERDEN

Principal, Our Lady of Victory School, Fergus Falls

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Tonya Zierden

What inspired you to pursue a career in education: I enjoy working with children and families.

Memorable classroom experience: In my first year of teaching in Minneapolis, two girls in my class had just moved to the United States and didn’t know English. I had to teach myself some basic Spanish to communicate with them, and they enjoyed correcting my attempts!

Goals for this year: Re-energize the parent volunteers and increase family participation at school events.

Predicted challenges: Our retiring principal, Sandy Carpenter, served in her role at the school for 21 years and was a long time member of the community. She developed many partnerships of support through trust and friendship to enrich the school environment. My challenge will be to connect with these supporters of the school and continue to foster these supportive relationships to maintain the exceptional quality of Our Lady of Victory School.

Educational philosophy: All people have a place where they shine. As educators, we need to help students find that place.

Previous positions: I have worked in the Minneapolis, Mounds View and Rocori school districts.

Family: Husband Dan; children: Nathan, 14, Jade, 12, Cole, 11, Shane, 8, Brook, 6

Hobbies: Gardening, spending time with family, watching my kids’ sporting events.