New principal at Our Lady of Grace Academy, East Moline

In August Linda Vander Vennet returned to Seton Catholic School in Moline to teach seventh and eighth grade religion, but she wasn’t there for very long. Earlier this month, she was named principal at Our Lady of Grace Academy in East Moline.

“I’ve had a wonderful three weeks. I think the teachers and I work well together and I see new hope in the families,” she told The Catholic Post. “There’s a lot of energy in our school. I hope to work off of that energy and make it a good year.”

Vander Vennet’s move to the principal’s office wasn’t entirely unexpected. She has been studying for a master’s degree in administration from Capella University, which is based in Minneapolis, Minn., and will graduate in December. And at the recommendation of Jane Barrett, her principal at Seton, she has been participating in a leadership program for potential principals and new principals sponsored by the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools.

WHEN SHE was contacted about the opening at Our Lady of Grace in July, Vander Vennet initially turned it down. After more discernment and spending a day at the school, however, she said she decided the community would be a good fit for a first-time principal and that she was ready to make the move.

“It was a good fit for my personality, too,” she said. “I’m someone who is a good listener and has a good heart. I think that will be good for a community that has been through a merger.”

Our Lady of Grace Academy was formed when St. Mary’s School and St. Anne’s School in East Moline came together in 2005. The school currently enrolls about 150 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

In addition to bringing a listening ear and good heart to her new post, Vander Vennet brings a great love for Catholic education.

“It’s a very rewarding occupation. You’re with children and have an important role in nurturing them for the future,” she said. “You see the lightbulbs go on. It’s never routine for me. You can always do something new for the kids.

“Most important, I’ve been able to live my faith to the fullest in this arena,” Vander Vennet explained, noting that she has enjoyed being able to share her faith with the students, their parents and her fellow teachers over the years.

A GRADUATE of Jordan Catholic School and Alleman High School in Rock Island, Vander Vennet went on to study early childhood education at Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa, and completed her coursework at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Mo., in 1988.

With the exception of one year, she has taught at Catholic schools Illinois, Georgia and Louisiana ever since. Vander Vennet was a fourth grade teacher at Seton Catholic School from 2000 until last year, when she started teaching seventh and eighth grade religion.

Her daughter, Kat, is a senior at Augustana College in Rock Island. Her son, Joey, graduated from Alleman last year and is a freshman at Muscatine Community College in Muscatine, Iowa.

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