Mindy Fritz read from a children’s book, with the words matching the activity she planned for the first-graders in her physical education class: “Let’s run and run and run!” and “I’m ready for some fun.”
Minutes later, the students were running around the gym at Immaculate Conception School in Dardenne Prairie in a game that involved balls and cones. It wasn’t so much about the game as it was the fun they were having while getting exercise.
It’s just one of the many ways Mindy is prepared and conscientious about her work, said Diane Kennon, an instructional aide who helps with the class. Mindy’s emphasis on leadership is reflected in her practice of selecting student-mentors who are paired with classmates who are less willing to be involved in activities, Diane said.
Mindy is working on a master’s degree in educational leadership through a one-year online program of Northwest Missouri State University. She began the program in October of 2020, has finished her coursework and is awaiting results of her certification test for K-12 administration. She’ll graduate in December.
“A lot of hard work,” said Mindy, the mother of two who has shown her dedication by staying focused on her studies while maintaining teaching and family commitments.
But Mindy may not have pursued the continuing education if not for a professional growth reimbursement program of the archdiocese’s Catholic Office of Education and Formation that is supported with funds from the Annual Catholic Appeal. “Having to pay that tuition out of pocket is a big financial responsibility, so having the archdiocese pay a portion of that made it do-able for me,” Mindy said. “I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Her goal is to move into an assistant principal position leading eventually to a position as a principal at a school. She’s had good leaders at her school, and they encouraged her to pursue her leadership potential.
The Annual Catholic Appeal grant is used for professional growth reimbursement. Sixty-two grants were made to 44 teachers, principals and directors of religious education in Fiscal Year ‘21 totaling $58,875. Numerous other applications are pending completion of coursework, and these additional requests would result in more than $10,000 of added grants. Because of COVID-19, many of the educators struggled with in-person/virtual learning that made it difficult (including university remote settings) to pursue these classes. It’s anticipated that more educators will resume their higher education in FY 2022.
Besides physical education, Mindy has served in an advisory program with seventh- and eighth-graders. It’s combined this school year with a leaders-in-training program with fifth- and sixth-graders. She’s working with fifth-grade students on inclusion and leadership. The program is an important one for the students, Mindy said. Inclusion focuses on human dignity and Catholic teaching, she noted.
This school year is Mindy’s 18th teaching physical education and 16th at Immaculate Conception School. “I get to see a huge portion of the student body and get to see them year after year. What I enjoy most is building a relationship with my students.”
She shows students that exercise doesn’t have to be work, it can be fun, instilling lifelong skills in health and wellness in the process.
Mindy said being a Catholic educator is important because she can incorporate prayer in class and students attend Mass. “That faith component at our school means everything,” she said.