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Faculty & Staff Send-off at Notre Dame Academy (Park Hills, KY)

The end of a school year is often bittersweet as we say goodbye to faculty and staff members who are retiring or moving on. This year is certainly no exception at Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, KY, with so many longtime members of our community who are retiring:

  • Kelly Burgei
  • Terri Perrino
  • Pat Brennan
  • Tom Richmond
  • Ron Greife
  • Mary Ann Greife
  • Sister Paul Ann Hanneken
  • Sister Mary Rachel Nerone
  • Dr. Laura Koehl

Notre Dame Academy and the Sisters of Notre Dame would like to thank everyone who is moving on in some way and wish them well in their future endeavors.

Please note that while Sr. Paul Ann and Sr. Mary Rachel are retiring from their role managing our Work Study Program at NDA, they will still live on the fourth floor and maintain an office on the first floor at NDA so students will still be able to share a friendly hello with them each day!

Also, while our students bid farewell to Dr. Koehl at this time, she will not take on her role as Executive Director of the SND National Sponsorship and Network Office until September 1. Until then, Dr. Koehl will continue to advance the mission of NDA in her role as President of Notre Dame Academy.

Tributes to Sisters Rachel and Paul Ann

Tribute to Sister Paul Ann by Michele Johnson
When I was asked to prepare a tribute to Sister Paul Ann, I was told to keep it around 5 minutes.  5 minutes? Really?? Of course that is not nearly enough time to give tribute to such a very special person.

Let me begin with a short fairytale:

“Once upon a time, there was an amazing sister who taught first grade at St. Joe’s in Cold Spring, KY. A little girl was blessed to be her student.  It was her loving kindness in the classroom and beyond, that planted the seed for this little first grader to become a teacher. The seed grew into a beautiful flower when, once again, that same little girl had Sr. Paul Ann as her 3rd grade teacher.”  This once upon a time story has two characters that all of you know.  Sr. Paul Ann was the first grade teacher and I was her student.

An interesting fact that most people here do not know is that it was during her time at St. Joseph School in Cold Spring that the special friendship between Sr. Paul Ann and Sr. Rachel began.  You rarely see one walk the halls of NDA without the other, and so I have to talk briefly about Sr. Rachel.

Mr. VonHandorf, along with all math teachers (including Sr. Rachel), please cover your ears.  Go ahead and put your hands over your ears. Ok. Are your ears closed?

My sophomore year at NDA was awesome except for one thing: geometry!!! Geometry hated me and to be honest, I hated it even more.  Algebra was great but this thing about angles and triangles and formulas, and Pi was not my cup of tea–unless we are talking literally about pie and tea. OK – Now you can open your ears.

To say the least, I was struggling and to make matters worse, the course was team taught – which meant I had two different teachers for the same course!  One of the two was Sr. Rachel, known in the 70s as Sr. Mary Marlene.  Don’t get me wrong, the other sister was a wonderful person, but I could not for the life of me appreciate how she taught geometry.  And so I resolved to have a conversation with Sr. Mary Marlene.  That conversation turned into tutoring whenever I needed it.  The high grade that I received in geometry was due to the patience with which Sr. Marlene tirelessly explained formulas and any other geometric issue that a sophomore might have.  

Now back to Sr. Paul Ann, Sr. Rachel’s partner in crime.

Not only has Sr. Paul Ann been an inspiration to me in the academic world, but also on a personal level.  It is so amazing to be on the faculty at NDA with my first grade teacher, whom I have always admired for her spirit-filled life of love and service to others.  I have admired her energy and her devotion to God and to the Blessed Mother.  I have admired her love of life and the way she has handled cancer as well as other health-related situations. She is a woman who is not willing to sit for long – she has to be up and moving whether it is cleaning the halls, mopping a floor, emptying a trash can or cleaning a window at NDA. From Director of Admissions to Director of the Work Study program, and now to retirement, we are all happy that she will still be living on the 4th floor and that we will see her often. Sr. Paul Ann has been and always will be known above all else for her love for others.  As Sr. Paul Ann has said on many occasions, “God loves all of us, so why shouldn’t we love one another.”

We have covered academics and personal relationships. I will close with some fun facts and a short guessing game about these two amazing sisters.  See how many of these you get right!

Guessing Game/Fun Facts about Sr. Paul Ann and Sr. Rachel:

1. Which sister is in the NDA Hall of Fame for Sports?  Both!!!

2. Which sister is the loudest cheerleader and which one is the “backseat coach?”  Sr. Paul Ann is the cheerleader and Sr. Rachel is the backseat coach!

3. Who loves Xavier University’s basketball team?  Both

4. Who loves the Reds & Bengals only if they are winning? Sr. Rachel

5. Who loves Xavier University and the Reds even if they are NOT winning?  She is not necessarily into football!  Sr. Paul Ann

6. Since NDA did not have sports when this sister was in high school, who played almost every city sport?  Sr. Rachel

7. Who was the city champion of ping pong? Sr. Rachel

8. Who has a propensity for fainting at important events like last year’s drive through graduation? Sr. Paul Ann

9. Who likes to make the person in charge look good? Sr. Rachel

10. Who is the cheerleader of everything and the entertainer that volunteers for any committee that needs someone who is willing to act silly? This sister has been known to sit in the display case in the foyer just to encourage students to sell raffle tickets!  Sr. Paul Ann

11. Who is known as the Cookie Monster?  If there’s a cookie just sitting there it is screaming to be eaten. Sr. Rachel

12. Who loves music and can sing, as well as play both piano and organ? Sr. Rachel

We all know that Mr. V is the principal at NDA who has authority over all of us.  But when it comes to Srs. Paul Ann & Rachel even HE cannot keep them from climbing ladders or doing other dangerous things. That is why I lovingly refer to them as partners in crime. Remember that they are only 89 and 84 years old and still going strong!

I love you Sr. Paul Ann and Sr. Rachel!!  Thank you for the memories.

Tribute to Sister Mary Rachel by Katie Caccavari
When I was asked to make some remarks honoring Sr. Rachel, my first reaction was, “I am thrilled to do it.”  My second reaction was, “I am not worthy to do it.” How do you boil down what Sr. Rachel means to NDA and to all of us in just a few minutes?  So I did what any good Panda would do when faced with a challenge–I asked other Pandas for help.  And of course they came through.  So my remarks will be a compilation from several people who want to wish Sr. Rachel well.

I remember when I became the Admissions Director in 2014 how much I relied on Srs. Rachel and Paul Ann during that first year.  My task was a bit daunting since I was taking over for two people who had done the job for over 30 years.  I’m sure Dr. Koehl will agree with me that it is not easy to be the person who takes over a job after a nun.  But the sisters were so gracious and helpful and kind.  They put together an admissions calendar for me–month by month for the entire year.  It outlined every task that needed to be done.  I followed that calendar to the letter and that is how I survived my first year. That calendar was my second Bible. I still have it and I’m sure I will pass it on to the next Admissions Director one day.  The sisters were my biggest supporters during my first years at NDA.  They made phone calls for me, so that people would agree to have big open house signs in their yard.  They assembled yard signs at night while they watched TV.  I could not have asked for better mentors.

The first person I went to for memories of Sr. Rachel was Connie Roenker.  Mrs. Roenker taught math at NDA for many years and she will tell you that Sr. Rachel had a profound impact on her life and is the reason that she also became a math teacher.  Mrs. Roenker also remarked that she will always remember Sr. Rachel’s beautiful penmanship, and I wholeheartedly agree.  Whenever I see beautiful cursive handwriting here in the building, I know that it was most likely done by one of the sisters.

We are very lucky at NDA to have people dedicated to archiving and preserving the history of the Sisters of Notre Dame.  Mrs. Nancy Stratman, who retired last year from the Social Studies Department, is now working with the archives and she contributed some “fun facts” about Sr. Rachel.  

Sr. Rachel attended Notre Dame Academy from 1951 – 1954.  She was involved in Chorus, Student Council and intramural volleyball, and she led her volleyball team to a school championship.  Sr. Rachel had the honor of crowning Mary at May Crowning when she was a sophomore, and was the first sophomore to ever achieve that honor.

Sr. Rachel’s senior superlative was “popular” and her senior yearbook post described her as “a girl with a sense of responsibility.”

She joined the NDA community in 1963 as a member of the math faculty.  In addition to teaching math and chairing the math department, Sr. Rachel has held several other positions in the school over the years including: computer and chorus teacher, assistant principal, scheduling coordinator, admissions counselor, and of course, work-study coordinator. 

Sr. Rita Geoppinger had the following memories to share about Sr. Rachel:

Sr. Rachel was an outstanding teacher and administrator at Notre Dame Academy because she not only believes in the Notre Dame philosophy of life but she lives it.  I worked with Sr. Rachel as a fellow teacher and administrator during all 26 years of my time at NDA.  As a teacher and the chair of the Math Department, Sr. Rachel fostered excellence and mentored students and teachers, such as Connie Roenker, in ways to bring the best out of themselves. Sr. Rachel did this for me as my Assistant Principal, too.

Sr. Rachel was also the Assistant Principal for Sr. Virginia Ann.  In those days, modular scheduling was an educational innovation that provided quality time for unique facets of a curriculum such as a community service block, a guest speakers program or extended science labs…. Sr. Rachel introduced modular scheduling to Northern Kentucky and was the master-mind behind this very effective and successful teaching tool at NDA. Long after this method was abandoned by other schools who found it too challenging and complex to administer, Sr. Rachel continued to “puzzle” out a yearly schedule that resulted in the most students and teachers having the possibility of the most educational opportunities possible. It was her challenge and she met it year after year.  

Above all Sr. Rachel is a phenomenal support person. She is a brilliant and clear thinker and a creative problem solver, but prefers to operate from behind the scenes. As Assistant Principal she was invaluable to me. Together we would grapple with issues, examining them from every angle. Once we came to a conclusion and decided on a plan of action, Sr. Rachel could always be counted on to see it through in every detail to the very end. Sr. Rachel was and continues to be my very dear friend.”

Thank you to Sr. Rita for those memories.

SIDE NOTE: (Mrs. Greife told me that she remembers sitting in faculty meetings with Sr. Rachel and marveling at how she could discuss the details of this complex schedule from memory.)

Speaking for myself, I have been incredibly blessed in my professional life to have had wonderful mentors and role models, and I place Sr. Paul Ann and Sr. Rachel at the top of that list. They have dedicated their lives to our good God, and they exemplify faith, service, and humility.  I am so thankful that my daughter has the privilege of knowing you, and I hope that I can live up to your example.

The final person who sent me comments about Sr. Rachel was Mrs. Linda Bricking.  Mrs. Bricking taught in the English department at NDA for many years and has this to say:

For as long as I taught at Notre Dame Academy, Sister Rachel was one of the first people to greet me in the morning and one of the last to say goodbye at day’s end.  She was a graceful presence always, who, along with Sr. Paul Ann, made sure that everything was spic and span, that work-study students were on task, and that the end-of-year cleaning supplies were outside every classroom door, ready for the annual ritual that marked the last day of the school year.  She was continuously working behind the scenes to ensure that the building was immaculate.  One day during the pandemic shutdown, I came into school and there in the first floor hall was Sr. Rachel mopping floors.  No task was too small and always, she was cheerful and smiling.  Back in the days when I was directing plays, I recall Sr. Rachel sitting in on practices in the auditorium and eagerly attending our performances.  She was one of my biggest supporters and I so appreciated her encouragement and her sense of humor.  Of course she remains one of the biggest fans of NDA athletics and she and Sr. Paul Ann will never be surpassed as the fund-raisers-in-chief for every benefit that the school sponsored, staking out their table in the foyer as the school day began to meet, greet and collect donations.  

It’s difficult to imagine Sr. Rachel not being there each day but I wish her every blessing, and I pray that all the good she has done comes back to her many times over, as it is the least she deserves for all she has done as a teacher, administrator and role model for Pandas down the generations.

On behalf of the entire NDA community, thank you Sr. Rachel for all that you have done.  We wish you a long, healthy, and happy retirement!

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