Teacher at Saint George to start first full year as principal in September
By Melissa Komar
Saint George may have a new principal, but it will be a familiar face greeting students when they return in September.
Rebecca Tieri Kutterbach was named principal of the Port Richmond Catholic elementary school after former principal and Saint George alumnus Danny Markowski announced he would depart at the end of the 2017 school year.
Markowski served as the principal for 16 years, and as a teacher for a few years prior to that.
“One of the things we talked about was how the community would react and how do I live up to their expectations,” Kutterbach said. “And, what he said to me and what my mantra has been is, ‘I have nobody’s shoes to fill but my own.’ My goal is to be the best principal I can be.”
Kutterbach worked with Markowski after the conclusion of the school year, he made “The Principal’s Bible” for her, a list of duties for each month, and she frequently texts him with questions.
Kutterbach started her own teaching career in 2013 teaching second and third grade at St. Martin of Tours School in Oxford Circle and went on to teach fifth grade at St. Mark School in Bristol.
At the end of 2017, Kutterbach received a text from her sister-in-law about an opening at Saint George School.
“All of my brother’s kids go here and, I thought, ‘Well, I’m not looking for a job, but I’ve always wanted to teach there and I love to be with family,’ ” she said.
Kutterbach got the job as the fifth- and sixth-grade teacher for ELA and religion and on a personal level, came full circle.
“It’s really special to me to come back to Saint George,” she said. “My mom and my grandparents are from Port Richmond. My parents were married in the church. As a kid, I would come to church with my grandpop, Herbie Rosenberger. People come up to me and say, ‘You’re Herbie’s granddaughter,’ or ‘You’re Lorraine’s daughter.’ So, it’s special to me knowing people remember them.”
A Bridesburg native, Kutterbach attended All Saints School, went to Little Flower for high school, and earned a degree in secondary education at Holy Family University.
Kutterbach credits a strong support system helping her attain her new position.
“When I got my first job at St. Martin, it dawned on me I had never taught third grade before. My mom had worked at Bridesburg Elementary School for more than 10 years, and she went through things with me. So, I definitely leaned on my mom my first couple years of teaching,” she said.
After teaching a couple of years, Kutterbach returned to school for her teaching certification for pre-K through fourth grade.
And, after teaching a couple of more years, she went back to school again for her master’s at Holy Family University. Markowski was her mentor during the program.
“I did a lot of one-on-one work with him learning about the school before I even knew he was leaving, so again, it all feels I’m coming full circle,” Kutterbach said. “It feels so natural and right. This is definitely a second home for me.”
The warm welcome she has received at her second home extends beyond the administration.
“The support is amazing. People come here and offer to help,” she said. “I’ve never been in a school where parents in the community are so eager to be involved.”
Kutterbach recollected a student and family providing supplies for an art project last year.
“I said to the students that I had an idea for an art project, but I would have to buy mirrors first,” she said. “And, the next day, one of my students came in with 12 mirrors. I couldn’t explain to her or her family how grateful I was because I never had families who were so eager to help. And, as a teacher, it’s the little things sometimes.”
While Kutterbach will miss having a classroom of her own, she’s excited to help all the teachers at St. George who will.
“It is strange not to be in Target buying 20 boxes of crayons and 20 boxes of markers,” she said. “But, now I’m in the position where I get to listen to [the teachers’] ideas and get to work really hard to get them in place. If I’m principal, I can impact more than just my own classroom.”
Making an impact beyond the four walls of a classroom at Saint George’s, specifically strengthening an already strong sense of community, is one of Kutterbach’s main objectives going into the school year.
“That’s really our theme for this school year, that sense of community. I really want to strengthen that. I know change isn’t easy,” she said. “I want to ensure everyone we are still a strong community.”