Randy Simmons, Distinguished Principal of the Year, shows love and lives faith

Randy Simmons holds an impromptu meeting with John Alwan, Ben Ramsey, Sarah Rashid, Luke Carroll and Quinn Pallardy in his office at Peoria Notre Dame High School. "If you truly love what you do, really not work," he said. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

In his “Leadership Development” class at Peoria Notre Dame, Randy Simmons tells the juniors and seniors, “You never have to work a day in your life if you’re passionate about what you do. The money comes and it goes, but if you truly love what you do, it’s really not work.”

He speaks from experience.

“I want to be here every day. I want to be with these kids and the teachers,” he told The Catholic Post. “I don’t find reasons to miss work. I just love our kids.”

Simmons has found that to be true for 40 years, first as a teacher and administrator in Peoria Public Schools, and at Peoria Notre Dame since 2013. Along the way he has also been a coach of “just about everything.”

His philosophy is to treat every student as if he or she were his own child and to give them the same unconditional love. “I’m a big advocate for the kids,” Simmons said.

“It was a long time ago, but I recognize and understand the struggles that they go through growing up and maturing. Kids are allowed to make mistakes and we as adults and Christians need to forgive them,” he explained. “We need to be the support for them as they regroup.”

Simmons has been named Distinguished Principal of the Year by the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. Also receiving recognition were Eileen Lohr, longtime kindergarten teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Peoria, who was named Distinguished Teacher of the Year, and Msgr. Brian Brownsey, pastor of St. Mark Parish in Peoria, who is the Distinguished School Pastor of the Year for 2018-1019.


Simmons earned his bachelor of science degree at Bradley University, where he played baseball. He holds master’s degrees in athletic administration from Illinois State University and educational administration from Bradley.

His experience includes teaching for 15 years at Manual Academy in Peoria, his alma mater, and serving as principal at Calvin Coolidge Middle School, Peoria High School and Von Steuben Middle School.

While Simmons doesn’t regret any of the time he spent working in public schools, he appreciates being in a faith-based environment now. He arrives at Peoria Notre Dame each day at 6:30 a.m. and makes the 7:15 a.m. Mass in the chapel a priority.

“It’s a great way to start the day,” he said. “I try to live my faith the very best I can. For me, it’s hard to move forward without that faith.”

He credits Patti, his wife of 36 years, as being his “rock” in terms of faith building, and said Catholic education has been important to both of them. They sent their son and two daughters to St. Philomena School in Peoria and then Peoria Notre Dame, “which prepared them phenomenally.”

His day may start early, but it doesn’t end that way. Simmons can often be found at sports events, plays and meetings, and said these are valuable opportunities to get to know the students and their families in a more casual, relaxed way.

He added that he knows he is one of many who work to make Peoria Notre Dame the best school it can be.

“I work with one of the best groups of teachers and colleagues and friends,” Simmons said. “They’re just a great group of caring people, who dedicate their lives to Catholic education and our kids, our community.”


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