On any given school morning at St. Anne Catholic School in Barrington, you would be greeted at the front entrance by the principal, Sister Ann Busch, with her well-known and chipper salutation “good morning.” It didn’t matter if it rained, snowed, or hailed, Sister Ann would be standing out there in a raincoat and umbrella, or a winter jacket and snow boots with a smile on her face.
This 2010-11 school year celebrates Sister Ann’s 10th year as principal at St. Anne, but it also marks her last year; she is retiring at the end of June.
“I just knew it was time to retire,” Sister Ann said. “It’s been a difficult and hard decision, but I’ll be closing a chapter in my life and starting a new one.”
Sister Ann will be working for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools in her role mentoring new Catholic school principals.
“I’ll be a support, mentoring and consulting new principals,” Sister Ann said.
Sister Ann has a collective 50 years in education, 49 of them with the Archdiocese of Chicago, and 25 as a principal,
“I have taught every grade but kindergarten,” Sister Ann said.
Her first years as a teacher were in Chicago’s inner. She remembers having a first-grade class of 72 children – most spoke Spanish or Italian.
“Oh, I could write a book about all the stories I have about those times,” she laughed.
She grew up on a farm in Cuba City, Wis., the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters and recalls playing dress up, “I would dress up as a nun and my brothers and sisters and I would run through the fields and sing,” Sister Ann said. It was at that time and the positive influence of her first-grade teacher, Sister Quirina, that Sister Ann knew her calling was to be as a teacher with the Roman Catholic Church.
At age 15 she entered the convent. She eventually studied at Alverno College, getting her bachelor’s degree in education, and later earning her master’s degree in administration and supervision from Roosevelt University.
“The rest is history, and I’d do it all over again,” Sister Ann said.
While teaching at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Buffalo Grove, Sister Ann moved into the position as principal.
“At the time I was working with teachers and a principal who were very encouraging and telling me it (becoming principal) would be something I would be very good at,” Sister Ann explained.
After St. Mary’s, she became principal for 10 years at St. Norbert’s Elementary School in Northbrook, with her final destination at St. Anne.
“Being a principal is different from the day-to-day interaction as a teacher, but I’m still able to make a difference in students’ lives,” Sister Ann said.
She has made it a point to know all 450 students’ names at St. Anne – 600 students’ names when she first started 10 years ago.
When report card time comes around Sister Ann sits with every student in her office to go over it.
“I go over with them what they have done well and what do they need to improve upon,” Sister Ann explained. “Even the student with straight A’s meet with me, because there is always something they can improve upon.”
During her 10 years as school principal, technology has become a big part of education and how education is delivered.
“All of our teachers have laptops, and we have over 200 computers for the students, and we use interactive boards in all of our classrooms,” Sister Ann said.
The students are being taught how to use PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and various other programs.
She has made it a priority to give her teachers professional development like technology, inquiry-based learning and response and intervention for children, which pinpoints learning issues in children early on.
Spanish was introduced into the curriculum and according to Sister Ann, many students place into Spanish honors and accelerated classes when going on to high school.
Mandarin Chinese recently has been added as a language at St. Anne.
“I’m so lucky to work with such talented and gifted faculty members and staff,” Sister Ann said. “I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them.”
Sister Ann also made it a point for students to do service projects in the community like helping in soup kitchens, organizing food drives and volunteering their time.
“We are all always asking ourselves, ‘How do we teach them (students) to be responsible and make good choices?’”
As a farewell to Sister Ann, the entire school came together at an assembly, with each class saying a prayer and then showcasing a video students put together highlighting what they will miss most about her. They emphasized her well-known “good morning” greeting throughout the assembly and even presented her with a plaque bearing the words “good morning” on it. Students requested she hang the plaque right in front of the office at the school so they could still see her say “good morning” after she is gone.
What touched Sister Ann most was the students collected 1,100 cans of food, representing the number of days she spent at St. Anne and donated them to Project Hope in Barrington.
“Once they announced that, I just lost it,” Sister Ann said. “I was so taken aback.”
Even though school is out, Sister Ann is helping her replacement Dawn Kapka, become adjusted to her new role as school principal. Sister Ann’s last day is Friday, June 24, but she plans to stay in the Barrington area and to remain a parishioner of St. Anne.
“I’ll miss the kids, the teachers, the staff, and the parents from St. Anne the most,” she said.