A new president at the helm of St. Teresa’s Academy

Siabhan May-Washington

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Siabhan May-Washington, Ph.D., became the 25th president of St. Teresa’s Academy in July, succeeding Nan Bone, who retired following 12 years of service to STA, at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

The Kansas City native, youngest of seven children, attended St. Joseph’s School and she and her sisters all graduated from Loretto Academy. Her oldest brother graduated from De LaSalle Academy; her other brothers graduated from Rockhurst High School. Siabhan headed off to the University of Iowa, but during her freshman year, her grandmother fell ill. She returned to Kansas City to be near her family and enrolled at UMKC.

She graduated from UMKC with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, then earned a Master’s Degree in English Curriculum from UMKC and a Master’s in Education Administration from Park University. She was awarded a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Baker University and is one of a handful of teachers in the Kansas City metro area to have received National Board Certification in English. “I wanted to be the best I could be,” she said.

Dr. May-Washington brings more than 30 years of educational experience to the position. Prior to taking the helm of St. Teresa’s Academy, she served as the Assistant Principal of Faculty Development at Pembroke Hill Upper School.

She worked at Pembroke Hill since 2003, including as Chair of the English Department for several years. Additionally, she has served part-time for two academic cycles (similar to semesters) as an adjunct professor for Park University’s Graduate Education School. Prior to Pembroke Hill, May-Washington worked at Lincoln College Preparatory from 1996 to 2003 as an English Department Chair, teacher, and International Baccalaureate Coordinator. In addition, she served as an Adjunct English Dual Credit Instructor at Rockhurst University from 1996 to 2003 and earlier, as a teacher and Department Chair of English at the Anderson Alternative School from 1989 to 1996, where she worked with many at-risk kids from the nearby Juvenile Justice Center.

Members of St. Francis Xavier Parish, she and her husband, Rick Washington, have been married 25 years and are the parents of three children — Brandon attends Rockhurst University, Lauren attends Northwestern University and Taryn attends Pembroke Hill Lower School. Rick Washington is also an educator, teaching kindergarten at Allen Village School.

Kevin O’Connor, Chairman of the St. Teresa’s Academy Board of Directors and of the President Search Committee, praised her lifelong love of learning, and described her as, in a sense, a teacher’s teacher. And she loves to read.

Dr. May-Washington said, “English and Literature have so much to teach us. The Classics – Shakespeare, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, African-American authors and poets like the late Toni Morrison, other American writers and poets – Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and so many more.”

She said when she heard about St. Teresa’s search for a new president, she was intrigued. She did some research and talked to people she knew about the school. She “fell in love with the mission of the school: to educate young women to think critically, encourage them through Catholic values to love the dear neighbor without distinction, and empower them to change the world. STA felt right!”

Encouraged by a good friend, Kansas City attorney Michelle Wimes, she applied for the president’s job. Colleagues at Pembroke Hill told her she was perfect for the position. In Dec. 2018, O’Connor and St. Teresa’s announced May-Washington’s selection as the new president of the all-girls Catholic high school.

As the new school year was beginning, she told The Catholic Key, “I am so blessed and happy to have been chosen! The students sold me on this school — bright eyed with joy of learning and being on this campus. It was heartwarming!”

She was officially welcomed at a Mass in the Academy’s gymnasium and reception in Windmoor Center, Aug. 18. “It was good to open the year with our Catholic faith and prayer,” she said. “And all the smiles have been welcoming.”

Dr. May-Washington has several aspirations and goals for the coming years. “My goal is to provide dedicated leadership,” she said, “and support in imparting the important mission and vision of St. Teresa’s Academy. We all play a key role in fulfilling the mission as we aim toward future growth. As we continue to learn, work, serve and grow, may God be with us every step of the way. As our cornerstone motto states, ‘With the help of God we need not fear.’”

She would also like to see STA have a larger presence in the Kansas City community, while keeping the founding Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s charism of loving the dear neighbor without distinction. Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, a new all girls charter school for fifth grade girls has just opened in Kansas City, and Dr. May-Washington has it on her radar for service and inspiration.

She intends to both maintain and heighten the Catholic presence of and in St. Teresa’s Academy. “We teach traditional theology here and we will not compromise our Catholicity,“ she said. However, she wants the students to experience the real world through increased student and faculty diversity. “All are welcome here.”

She also plans on increasing curriculum rigor, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum; St. Teresa’s is the second school in Missouri and Kansas and the second all-girls school in the nation to receive AdvancED STEM certification for excellence.

Although the future is a powerful tool for student inspiration, Dr. May-Washington says it’s important to honor the Academy’s ceremonial traditions, including Masses, Passing On the Legacy (for a new president), the Mother Evelyn O’Neill Award (honors women in the tradition of Evelyn O’Neill, the Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet who moved the Academy from 11th and Pennsylvania downtown to the current campus in 1908 and oversaw the construction of the campus buildings and landscaping. She mentioned that she had met members of the Class of 1940 at a recent meeting and was moved by their continued sisterhood. “There is a specialness to this school that lives on,” she said. Now she is part of it.

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Saturday
October 19, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph