Educator hired as principal of merged Catholic school in Indiana Township
When Jessica Rock completed her principal certification from Carlow University in July, she never imagined she would be behind the head desk at Blessed Trinity Academy just weeks later.
Rock, a science teacher at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Natrona Heights for nine years, applied for the open principal position at the recently formed Blessed Trinity Academy in Indiana Township on a whim.
“I finished up my certification this July, went for the interview here maybe a week later, got the job and started right away,” Rock said. “I never imagined it would happen so quickly.”
Rock, 39, this summer replaced Judy Riegelnegg, the St. Mary of the Assumption School's former principal, who resigned.
At the end of the 2016-17 school year, St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Bonaventure School in Shaler and St. Ursula School in Hampton merged into one school with two campuses under a Diocese of Pittsburgh-mandated regionalization. Riegelnegg was slotted as the new school's principal until her resignation.
As a first-time principal stepping into essentially a new school, Rock believes this transition will only make her stronger.
“It's been crazy, because it's like taking three households and throwing them into one,” Rock said. “Any other principal that walks into a new role does not have to do all of this reorganizing, so I think if we make this a successful year, I can do just about anything.”
After receiving both bachelor's and master's degrees from Clarion University in science education and taking on several temporary subbing jobs, Rock accepted a full-time teaching position at Blessed Sacrament.
“My full intention was to teach science … and research has shown that if you put teachers in positions they are most passionate about, the students learn beyond what they normally would from any other teacher,” she said. “I always thought that it was the best for my students to be in the area that I love.”
But after almost a decade of teaching, Rock realized that she wanted to impact more than just one classroom, so when the diocese offered a scholarship for its teachers to go back and get principal certifications and a master's, she jumped on the opportunity.
“I really felt that if I was a principal instead of a teacher, then the students could be able to voice their concerns,” Rock said. “I really did this for the kids.”
For Amy Hill, who has two children attending Blessed Trinity Academy's initial semester, Rock provides the newly formed school an opportunity to create a solid foundation for growth and development for not just the kids, but everyone.
“I feel like she will allow the students, staff and families the opportunity to have a voice at the school,” Hill said.
Rock, her husband, Andrew, and children, Cassandra, 17, Breanna, 9, Annalise, 5, and Lucas, 2, live on a quiet street in Kittanning. The family's “adorable slew of pets” include a flock of chickens and some turtles that will be finding a new home in her office at Blessed Trinity.
If asked a year ago where she would be, Rock wouldn't have guessed at a new school helping to launch its inaugural year.
“I didn't imagine it would happen so quickly and I really wasn't looking for it, but I let God do his work and I know that wherever he needs me, he'll put me,” Rock said. “I feel like this is where he wanted me to be right now.”
Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.