By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
PLANO — Looking for a way to keep busy and get involved in her sons’ school community, Pam Steinkirchner began working in the lunchroom at St. Mark Catholic School almost 25 years ago.
As the Plano campus opened its doors for the 2021-22 school year on Aug. 16, Steinkirchner was its principal.
“Who would have ever guessed God’s plan for me,” said Steinkirchner, who officially assumed the principal’s role on Jan. 1 after Patricia Opon retired. “I’m just along for the ride, but I think in my journey of faith, He’s led me to where I need to be.”
While the journey may have started in the cafeteria, Steinkirchner spent a number of years in the classroom, first as a substitute teacher and then 13 years teaching third grade at St. Mark. Prior to stepping into the principal’s post, she served six years as the assistant principal. Steinkirchner praised a succession program implemented by Matt Vereecke, superintendent of the Diocese of Dallas Catholic Schools, as helping to make the transition smooth.
“I’ve had the advantage of working for the only two principals who’ve ever been at this school, and that is huge. Patricia Opon expanded upon what Suzanne Bacot did, and now I have the opportunity to expand upon what Patricia did,” said Steinkirchner of the program that allows future principals the opportunity to work side-by-side with their predecessors before stepping into the role. “With that process, the parents know you, the students know you, and it just makes everything flow better during the transition.”
Carolyn Eisele, a fourth-grade language arts teacher at the school, said the fact that Steinkirchner has been a teacher, assistant principal and now principal at the school means she recognizes the efforts and dedication of the staff.
“She leads by promptly recognizing each person and their God-given talents exuded at our school while maintaining her positive attitude,” Eisele said. “Her constant dedication towards enriching Catholic faith and education in young people and their families has been reflective in everything she puts forth in every role she’s had at this school.”
Steinkirchner leads a school with a robust enrollment and strong faith community.
“It’s the people who make this place special,” she said. “I’m a people person and I really get a lot of energy from this community.”
As the new year begins, the St. Mark community will build upon a campaign that started with Bishop Edward J. Burns’ “Be Golden” campaign, launched in 2018 to help create a more welcoming community in the Diocese of Dallas and beyond.
“We followed the bishop’s campaign of ‘Be Golden’ and then we took it to ‘Be Kind.’ This year, we are going to do ‘Others First,’” Steinkirchner said. “You put God first and then take time to consider what you can do for others.”
It’s a campaign near and dear to Steinkirchner’s heart as it is also what inspires her to be a part of Catholic education, both as an administrator and an educator.
“They are not always going to remember everything you teach them, but they will remember how you make them feel,” she said. “You have the ability to make someone feel really special.”
Assistant principal Gregory Michniak called Steinkirchner’s ability to establish and build positive relationships with virtually every member of the school community “unparalleled.”
“Her genuine excitement and energy for the mission of St. Mark’s is a constant force that draws her colleagues together to work toward the mission of the Church,” said Michniak, adding that Steinkirchner’s Catholic faith is central to her service as a school leader. “She shares it openly with everyone she encounters. She leads by example through her self-sacrificing work ethic and tireless humility in service to God and others. God has blessed the St. Mark Catholic School community with her dedication and love.”
With students returning to school following two years impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Steinkirchner said inspiring students to achieve and reassuring them are top goals.
“We want them to be the best that they can be, pushing themselves to succeed, not only in their academics, but also in their faith, in their service and their lives,” she said.