Taking the reins as the new principal of a school during a pandemic might seem like a daunting challenge, but new St. John Vianney Principal Natalie Eskert sees it as an opportunity.
“This is a blessing in disguise,” she said of the pandemic. “Now we have the opportunity to share our faith with a new generation of students.”
“My goal is to create a rich and rigorous education program while providing an atmosphere that is full of love and Christ-centered,” Eskert wrote in a message to St. John Vianney families. “I am motivated to make sure our students are engaged in purposeful learning and taught the value of being a life-long learner.”
Eskert is doing all she can to promote St. John Vianney School and spread the word about “the hidden gem in Gallatin.” She’s making sure the website is updated and optimized; she’s talking with interested families and leading school tours almost every day. “Some people come with the paperwork signed and ready to go,” she said.
As the only pre-K through eighth grade Catholic school in Sumner County, and one of the few private schools in the county, St. John Vianney is well positioned to welcome families who are craving a regular schedule of in-person learning, Eskert said. When Sumner County announced its plans to have students in the classroom only two days a week, “our phones were ringing nonstop,” she said.
“We’ve done a lot of prepping, research, and collaboration with the diocese to get ready to get back in the classroom,” Eskert said.
With an 8:1 student to faculty ratio, St. John Vianney will be able to keep students adequately spaced out in their classrooms and common spaces. “It definitely helps that we’re smaller,” in re-assuring families that their child will be safe at school, Eskert said. For the families that want to be part of the community but are not comfortable with in-person learning yet, St. John Vianney will offer distance learning as well to start the year, Eskert said.
Eskert comes to St. John Vianney from St. Joseph School in Madison, where she served for one year as the Director of Instructional Programs. Prior to that she lived in Miami where she began her 18-year career in education. She gained experience at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, the Miami-Dade County Public School system, and Miami Dade College as an adjunct professor.
While this is Eskert’s first role as principal, she served in administrative and leadership positions throughout her career.
“She has an excellent grasp on curriculum design, technology integration, and innovative programming, all of which will serve the students and families of St. John Vianney well,” Diocese of Nashville Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel wrote in a letter to the St. John Vianney community announcing Eskert’s hire in May. “We believe the school is well-positioned for the future and that Miss Eskert is the leader to move us forward.”
In addition to the St. John Vianney School getting a new principal, the parish also has a new pastor, Father Rick Childress, who previously served at Immaculate Conception in Clarksville.
“We’re excited,” Eskert said. “It’s going to be a nice partnership. We have the same vision, goals and aspirations for the school.”
For more information about St. John Vianney School, visit http://saintjohnvianney.org/