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St. Cajetan Finds New Principal Within Its Ranks, Hires Michelle Nitsche

 Michelle Nitsche has been hired as principal at St. Cajetan Elementary School in Morgan Park. Nitsche has spent the last 14 years working in public education.
Michelle Nitsche
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MORGAN PARK — Four students at St. Cajetan Elementary School in Morgan Park will refer to their new principal as "Mom."

Michelle Nitsche was hired Friday to lead the Catholic school at 2447 W. 112th St. Her four children — Marty, 8, and 6-year-old triplets Billy, Brian and Molly — attend the school.

Nitsche, a graduate of Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Mount Greenwood, also has three nephews attending St. Cajetan, whom she suspects will continue to refer to her as "Aunt Michelle."

"Who would have more of a vested interest? I can say I bring that to the table," Nitsche said Tuesday.

Nitsche spent 14 years working in education ahead of accepting the job at the neighborhood school. For the past two years, she's worked at the Children's Literacy Initiative, where she helped Chicago Public Schools' teachers implement new techniques for teaching reading and writing.

The goal of her previous job was create life-long readers. And for the past four years, Nitsche has volunteered to share many of these same techniques with teachers in the younger grades at St. Cajetan.

Michelle Nitsche of Morgan Park was named principal of St. Cajetan Elementary School in Morgan Park on Friday. She takes over from Terry Reger, who retired after a decade at the Catholic school. [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]

Now she's hoping to bring those same individualized classroom procedures and techniques to all of the 395 students at St. Cajetan, said Nitsche, who also graduated from St. Catherine of Alexandria Elementary School in suburban Oak Lawn.

To do so, she said professional development will be a priority, adding that the same research-based techniques she's used to teach reading also translate into teaching math, social studies, science and more.

"Overall, we want a more individual lens to view our students from," said Nitsche, who replaces Terry Reger, who announced her retirement in April after spending a decade at St. Cajetan.

Nitsche said she also plans to make technology a key component of her tenure, both by adding iPads and other interactive learning devices as well as giving teachers the necessary training to implement such new tools.

In her first year, Nitsche said she'd like to see enrollment top 400 too. Beyond that, she said she's eager to sit down with teachers and staff to craft further goals for the school.

Michelle Nitche's first day as principal at St. Cajetan Elementary School in Morgan Park was Friday. A grandparent of a student at the school presented her with a name plate for her desk upon hearing the news. [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]

As for making the transition from mom to principal, Nitsche expects that walking the line will be difficult at times. But she said the job was truly a calling, and she's been met with overwhelming support thus far.

In a letter to parents announcing the new principal, the Rev. Frank Kurucz also cited Nitsche's previous experience as assistant principal at Ninos Heroes Academy in South Chicago.

The pastor of St. Cajetan went on to say that an extensive search eventually led back to a candidate who was already familiar with the school as a parent, volunteer and parishioner. Nitsche stood out as "the best candidate for the job," Kurucz said.

"I feel that we are truly blessed to have Mrs. Nitsche leading our school family," he said.

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