By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published May 26, 2005
Mary Jane Ritchie began her career in Catholic education and couldn’t be happier to return to her roots.
“I feel like I’m coming home,” she said. “I’m just thrilled.”
Ritchie has been named the new principal at Our Lady of the Assumption School and will officially begin her role July 1.
Ritchie’s first position in education was as a third-grade teacher at St. Jude the Apostle School in Sandy Springs. Her teaching responsibilities in elementary grades expanded to include first, fourth and fifth grades. For the past 14 years, she has been at Wesleyan School, a Christian school in Norcross. She currently serves as the school’s first lower school principal, overseeing kindergarten through fourth grades, and admits it’s not easy to leave.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “This has been a great journey for me, and I have nothing but happy memories.”
At the same time, she is looking forward to her new role at OLA, and working in a Catholic environment.
“I think what I’m most looking forward to is sharing my faith with people who have the same beliefs,” she said. “It’s not that different being in a Christian school, but it is just a different way of doing things.”
A parishioner of St. Brendan Church in Cumming, Ritchie is an active participant in the church, serving as a eucharistic minister. Her son, Brian, 17, a junior at Wesleyan, participates in the parish’s youth band.
Judith Mucheck, superintendent of Catholic schools, said that Ritchie’s love for her faith is part of what makes her a great fit for OLA.
“Mary Jane brings a great deal of leadership experience to the principal’s position at Our Lady of the Assumption. In addition, she is a woman who actively participates in her Catholic faith,” she said. “I look forward to continued positive momentum at the school.”
Ritchie holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Valdosta State University, a master of education degree from Georgia State University, and an education specialist’s degree in administration and supervision, also from Georgia State.
After her time at St. Jude’s, Ritchie went on to teach at Dunwoody Elementary School and at J.E. Richards Middle School as a sixth-grade math teacher. Her other responsibilities at Richards included serving on the local school advisory committee (LSAC) as a grade-level representative, a grade-level math head and as a participant on a committee that produced the Health Curriculum Standards for middle schools in Gwinnett County and developed a “Wellness Guide for Gwinnett County Schools.”
At Wesleyan, Ritchie played an integral role in the development of the first strategic plan, served on the committee responsible for creating and developing the new lower school building, and restructured the academic program. Her responsibilities there varied from room mother to president of the Parents Club to principal.
As she begins her new role at OLA, Ritchie hopes to “ease in” and learn the climate and environment of the school.
“The reputation at OLA is that they do a lot of really good things, so, of course, all those programs that work need to stay in place,” she said. “But if there is an area where the school or parents or teachers think we need improvement, then that’s where I’ll come in.”
She hopes to bring a “love for the individual child” to her position.
“All children are different and learn differently,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to work with children one-on-one to determine their individual learning styles. That’s always fun.”
At 51, Ritchie has an enthusiasm that belies her years of experience. The admitted kickboxing “addict,” Ritchie is “Northern-born and Southern-bred,” growing up in Ohio and moving to Atlanta in 1970. Though she won’t officially begin at OLA until July, she was introduced to the community on Tuesday, May 17.
“Having started in Catholic education, it’s like I’m coming full circle. I’m just so excited,” she said.