An interview with St. Sebastian School principal Heather Grams, from the Washington Heights Highlighter newsletter.
Please tell us about the academic and managerial background you are bringing to the job.
- BA – UW-Madison, in Elementary Education
- MA – University of Loyola-New Orleans, in Theology/Pastoral Counseling
- MA – University of Notre Dame Mary Ann Remick/ACE program, in Educational Leadership
- Classroom teacher in the elementary, middle and high school levels
- Most recently served as Assistant Principal at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Denver
Can you tell us a little about your family? Where do you live?
- Grew up in Menomonee Falls and Brookfield. I’ve lived in a number of states since then – IN, Washington D.C., NC, VA, CO, and now back to Wisconsin.
- 8-year-old daughter, Caroline, will start third grade at St. Sebastian.
- I’m in the process of looking for a home near St. Sebastian.
What are you looking forward to as you start the new year?
- Meeting the many faces of the St. Sebastian community!
- Working with this dedicated staff and our families as we grow and learn together, reaching new heights in how we best serve our students.
- I always am excited to find creative and innovative ways to foster a love of learning for us as educators, and of course, our students!
What are some of the challenges you think you will face?
- I am committed to finding ways we balance an approach to education that honors the deep history at St. Sebastian, while embracing new opportunities to grow in creative and innovative ways. I love learning about our community’s origins, while am also excited to work together in shaping a vision for our future.
- Our diverse community is remarkable on so many levels and a key reason I believed so strongly in coming here when offered the opportunity. There is much to be cherished and celebrated here in this special place.
How many children are expected to enroll in the school this year? Is enrollment rising or falling?
- We will have approximately 330 children in grades 4K – 8 Additionally, we have a great 3K and day care program with PAL and our treasured partnership with St. Coletta Day School, all housed within St. Sebastian – another rich aspect of this diverse community.
What are some innovations or new ideas you’d like to institute?
- I believe in merging the best educational practices of the “old” and the “new,” always striving to discern the most effective methods and approaches to reach our learning goals in meaningful ways for our students.
- As a staff we will delve deeper into a focus on differentiating instruction to best meet the needs of all learners as the overarching concentration of our professional development this year.
- Further integrating technology into our curriculum in ways that enrich and inspire our students as 21st century learners.
- Short- and long-term strategic planning for our future as a thriving school and parish community.
When you drive through the Washington Heights neighborhood, what are your impressions?
- My father worked at nearby Miller Brewing Company for over 30 years, and I now think of him driving down these streets every day in a way I had not before, which is pretty special.
- I notice that it seems people really take pride in their homes and yards, caring for the neighborhood. That says a lot to me about the people who live here.
- I feel like St. Sebastian parish, school, and surrounding neighborhoods are truly a gem in the Milwaukee area. I am excited to explore more of the area.
Is there a particular need at your school that the Washington Heights community might respond to?
- I would simply ask the neighborhood to always keep an eye out for our children to assist in ensure their safety as you drive by the school or see them in the neighborhood. Additionally, if you are interested in our school community and want to explore ways to volunteer your time, we would love to hear from you!
- And of course, I have learned we are famous for our fish fries that are open to the community, which I am anxious to experience myself!
Anything else we should know?
- Coming back to Milwaukee after 20 years, I’m aware of the city’s noticeable segregation. The more I know of St. Sebs and its rich diversity on many levels, I knew this was a school I wanted to be at and better understanding why our staff and families are so dedicated. I see us as a true beacon of hope in Milwaukee and our nation, feeling blessed and proud to be a part of it!