||Principal Mary Kilar, back row second from right, was honored by the National Catholic Educators Association with the Distinguished Principal Award. Kilar, the principal of St. John the Baptist School, Jefferson, is the first in the diocese and the second in the state to have been given the prestigious award. (Contributed photo)
JEFFERSON -- St. John the Baptist School in presented their annual Christmas program with the theme: “Touch of an Angel” on Thursday evening, Dec. 22, in St. John the Baptist Church.
Students from pre-K through eighth grade, under the direction of music teacher and band director, Andrea Haffelder, presented the Nativity in story and song with angels as the main focus. Prior to the main program, the junior and senior bands performed a variety of Christmas music for the enjoyment of the crowded church, which was filled with family and friends.
The highlight of the evening took place at the conclusion of the program with the presentation of the NCEA (National Catholic Educators Association) Distinguished Principal Award to Mary Kilar, principal of St. John the Baptist School for the last eight years. Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Madison, presented the good news to a surprised Kilar and overjoyed parish school community. Lancaster had nominated her for this honor at the start of the current school year with Kilar being the only principal being chosen from the Madison Diocesan schools.
Chosen for Great Lakes region
The NCEA Elementary Education Committee awards only one nominee from each of 12 geographic regions throughout the United States, and Mary Kilar was chosen as the recipient representing the Great Lakes states of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The principals chosen for this award have met and exceeded the set criteria for having a clear philosophy of Catholic education and providing effective faith-filled leadership. In addition to exemplifying Catholic identity in their work as administrators, the honorees lead and guide the entire school community in providing an environment in which all students can achieve academic, personal, and faith goals.
Kilar will be recognized and honored, along with the other 11 recipients from throughout the nation, at the awards dinner on April 11 in Boston, Mass., where this year’s NCEA Annual Convention will be held.
Guiding students to Jesus
In accepting this award, Kilar expressed her surprise and appreciation for this national honor, stating that in her work as school principal, she considers what she does a blessed ministry of guiding students to Jesus in an atmosphere of support and compassion. She thinks of every student as her own child in the way she encourages them to be the best that they can be inside the classroom as well as in their lives outside of school. Learning is the key to success in life, and having a strong foundation of faith is important as well.
Kilar has been a strong role model of her stated philosophy of Catholic education on a consistent basis since she became the school principal. Kilar concluded her remarks by thanking Lancaster and the Diocese of Madison, Fr. Tom Coyle, pastor of St. John the Baptist; parents; teachers; and the entire parish community for supporting her work as principal of St. John the Baptist School.