By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
ST. JOSEPH — There is a consensus among the teachers of Cathedral School: it is like a big, happy family and Mary Burgess plays a big role in that family. In Catholic education for 40 years, she has served 22 years as Cathedral’s principal, and bid farewell to many graduating students in that time. She also has said “welcome back” to a number of alumni who have returned to the school as teachers. This academic year, two sets of three sisters and a mother and daughter will be teaching in the Pre-school, Kindergarten and primary grades.
They share common bonds: All but one are Cathedral alums; Mary was principal for all but one and, as principal, was part of what drew them back. An added plus is that the other teachers, staff and families at Cathedral School seem like their own families.
Kristy Grable Bachali graduated from Cathedral and later received a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. She moved away from the St. Joseph area for a time, but “family brought her back home.” She began teaching in the Early Childhood Center at Cathedral six years ago, and this year will be her fourth teaching Pre-Kindergarten.
“I never wanted to go anywhere else,” she said. “The sense of community here is wonderful. Any school family would do anything for another family. We discovered that when my daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago. It’s like one big family.”
Her sister, Kelly Grable Tabor, feels much the same way. She graduated from Cathedral School and later received her certification in Early Childhood Education from Missouri State University in Springfield. After coming back to St. Joseph, she taught Kindergarten at Cathedral and then taught several years in the public school district. When her oldest child was to start kindergarten at Cathedral, Kelly returned there to teach. She is beginning her third year teaching First Grade.
She likes the atmosphere at the school. “Everyone here is so close to one another,” she said.
Tracy Grable Mattox, also a Cathedral School alumna, received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Missouri State University and has taught for 17 years, 15 of them at Cathedral.
After college, she moved back to St. Joseph. “I never considered going anywhere else,” she said. Now teaching Second Grade, Tracy likes the tradition and atmosphere of Cathedral School. “The teachers, staff, parents and students are all like a big family,” she said.
Her four children all have attended Cathedral School. The oldest is now at Bishop LeBlond High School, but the younger three are in eighth, fifth and second grades at Cathedral, and Tracy will be teaching her youngest. “I will be Mrs. Mattox, not Mom, in class,” she said.
The Rich sisters, Sara, Ashley and Amy, share a history at Cathedral School. Their grandparents were Cathedral parishioners, their mother attended Cathedral School and their parents were married in the cathedral. Of course, all three graduated from Cathedral School, and Mary Burgess was their principal.
Sara Rich Lile is starting her fifth year at the school. While studying elementary education at Missouri Western State University, she did her student teaching in the first grade at Cathedral. She later taught sixth grade, then served as the school’s development director. This year she will be handling marketing and teaching 3-year old Pre-School.
“Teaching here, especially with my sisters here, it feels like a second home,” she said.
Ashley Rich is starting her fifth year at Cathedral School. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Northwest Missouri State University, Cathedral School seemed like the perfect place to teach, she said. “No question about it. The love and support from the staff, from Mary, from the families, and working with my sisters — it is perfect. I feel very comfortable, it’s like home.”
Amy Rich taught at St. James School in St. Joseph or six years after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Missouri Western. She is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education at Benedictine College, and starting her first year teaching at Cathedral. She loved teaching third grade at St. James, but had wanted to return to Cathedral for a long time. She was surprised when the position as third grade teacher opened up.
“I’m going to love working with my sisters, teaching with them,” she said. “Sara’s son Tyson will be in my class, and a niece and nephew. The teachers here care so much about what’s best for the students and their families. That makes school a better place. I’m already comfortable here. It’s like a second home.”
Although she didn’t attend Cathedral School, Trish Supple joined the faculty not long after Mary Burgess was made principal. Trish Supple teaches Kindergarten and daughter Kristen is the new Early Childhood Center Coordinator.
Trish taught fifth grade in the public school district, until Kristen started 4-year old Pre-Kindergarten at Cathedral. Mom then joined the faculty. She likes the school’s families and atmosphere. “I’m not leaving our wonderful families, and Mary goes above and beyond for the kids, the teachers and the parents.”
Kristen, the youngest of three, went on to attend Bishop LeBlond High School and then to Central Missouri State University to study criminal justice. “I wanted to help kids,” Kristen said. “I thought criminal justice would be a good way to go. But Mary brought me back to Cathedral. Now I’m working on a degree in Early Childhood Education and this is my first year back. This school is like a family. I went to school here and came right back to it.”
School was to start Aug. 19 for students and teachers in Kindergarten through 8th. Pre-kindergarten begins Aug. 24.
Kristy Bachali’s daughter? She is fine, no trace of the tumor.