TCA director named NCEA Distinguished Principal

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent, TrentonMonitor.com

Among the Best

Trenton Catholic Academy Lower School Director Anne Reap accepts a Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association during its annual convention April 7 in Orlando, Fla. Reap is flanked by, from left, Jim King, NCEA interim executive director for the Elementary Schools Department; Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, TCA president; and JoAnn Tier, diocesan moderator and superintendent of schools. Rose O’Connor photo

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For Anne Reap, director of Trenton Catholic Academy Lower School, the decision to become a teacher was made at an early age and was almost inevitable.

“I was the oldest of five children,” she said with a laugh. “I always thought of myself as a teacher.”

While growing up in a large Catholic family in Bethesda, Md., Reap began her own journey into Catholic education, having attended St. Bartholomew Elementary School and St. Francis University, Loretto, Pa.

This journey would eventually result in her receiving the 2015 Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association at its annual week-long convention, held this year in Orlando, Fla., on its opening evening, April 7.

Her first teaching job, that did not involve her instructing two sisters and two brothers, was in Our Lady of Lourdes School, Bethesda, where she taught third grade.

In 1989, after settling in New Jersey, she became the pre-kindergarten teacher in Immaculate Conception School, Trenton, where her children Kelly and Kevin would accompany her to school daily.  She worked closely for many years with the late Franciscan Sister Marie Anthony Heiss, OSF, who served as her aide and friend.

In Immaculate Conception school, her natural leadership abilities were evident, and when the role of principal became available, she approached the late Franciscan Father Raynald Yudin, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, to “throw her name in to the ring.” She went on to becoming the school’s first lay principal.

When Trenton Catholic Academy was formed in 2005, the Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, parishoner, was selected as Lower School director of the newly formed regional school, where Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, has served as the president of the Pre-K through 12 school since its inception.

“Anne is totally dedicated to the mission of our school and to Catholic Education,” Sister Dorothy said of her colleague. “She is an excellent administrator who not only challenges herself but her teachers to ‘expect the exceptional’ in themselves and in their students.”

JoAnn Tier, diocesan moderator and superintendent of schools, echoed the sentiments of Sister Dorothy in her nomination letter to the NCEA. “Mission-oriented, Anne’s deep faith is articulated daily,” she wrote.

Reap and her faculty meets daily before the start of the day to pray together, to reflect and re-examine their mission as Catholic school educators and to simply enjoy each other’s company before the hectic and busy day begins. She has cultivated collegiality among her staff, all the while insisting on professionalism at all times. The turnover rate among her faculty is low and many teachers in the Lower School have worked along-side Reap since TCA opened its doors 10 years ago.

“Her leadership in inspiring teachers and clearly communicating expectations has resulted in faculty members being part of an integral team.”

While Reap sets the bar high for her staff members, she also sets it high for herself.

“We are all life-long learners,” she said, sharing that she always strives to “walk the talk,” by challenging herself to seek new and innovative methods of teaching and ensuring best practices are employed by her teachers.

Reap works hard to create an atmosphere where students feel loved and safe, and her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Parents and guests often remark on the positive and caring feeling they get when they walk through the school doors.

“She truly loves what she does and it shows in her dedication and smile,” PTA executive board member and mother of an upper school student, Christine Born, said.

“I recently read a quote that just made me think of Anne. ‘Children are the priority, Change is the reality, Collaboration is the strategy.’”

Patricia Jensen, whose children Kyra, second grade and Erik, pre-K, said of Reap, “She has a vested interest in their academic and personal lives and we have been impressed at how much she cares and how much effort she puts into knowing each and every student.”

Dan Napoleon, lower school athletic director and father of Brandon, third grade, and Dylan, first grade, stated,  “Anne is committed and dedicated to serving not only her school community, but also the larger external community where the needs are greatest. The TCA school community is blessed to have a leader with an exceptional ability to connect on multiple levels with her students, the parents and her fellow colleagues.  Anne demands educational excellence and works tirelessly to ensure mediocrity does not become commonplace.”

Her dedication to Catholic education is also noticed by her current and former students, one of whom calls Mrs. Reap by a different title: “Mom.”

“Every day I am inspired and motivated by my mother’s dedication to empowering the students of Trenton Catholic Academy through her strong faith in God,” her daughter Kelly offered.

“This dedication doesn’t end in the classroom, as she can always be seen in the bleachers at the CYO, the audience of the Scholastic Olympics, and on the basketball court at the faculty/student game during Catholic Schools Week. Her passion in her role as principal of TCA is seen and admired by many, including myself and my brother, Kevin,” Kelly Reap said.

Kelly and Kevin also have received the gifts of Catholic education from their parents, both attending Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, following their graduation from Immaculate Conception School, and St. Francis University and Villanova University, Philadelphia, respectively.

Her other “children” also were eager to offer their congratulations.

“Mrs. Reap has always been there for me and has encouraged me to always do my best! She deserves this award and I couldn’t be happier for her at this time!” eighth grade student Antonio Quiles remarked.

Classmate Amy Jones added. “Mrs. Reap cares about the students. She wants them to have a good future.”

“She really deserves this award for all the hard work she does at TCA!” Josephine Abraham, a sixth grade student, observed.

For Reap, winning the NCEA award “is a tremendous honor, and one that I share with everyone at TCA,” she said following the awards dinner where she was accompanied by Tier, Payne, faculty members and her beloved mentor, former principal of Incarnation-St. James School, Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Margaret Fagan, who currently serves as principal of Epiphany School, Miami.

“I have always said that being successful is about surrounding yourself with talented and driven professionals,” Reap added, acknowledging her faculty and colleagues. “Their hard work makes me look good.”

For Reap, the NCEA Distinguished Principal Award is not an end, but rather a continuation of a lifelong journey begun years ago.

“I always said Nike borrowed the line ‘just do it’ from my father,” she recalled.

“That sense of responsibility; of doing something because it is the right thing to do, of moving forward and pressing on when things are challenging, of remaining hopeful in our mission and vision for Catholic Education – it is something that I will always continue to do. You just do it!” Reap said.

As Reap continues her mission to provide a quality Catholic education, it is no doubt her TCA family, including second grade student Kyra Jensen, will continue to “reap” the benefits of her hard work. “I am so happy for Mrs. Reap, we are lucky to have her!”

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