The Saint and Leader Right Under Our Noses

Mary Clare A, Columnist

After sixteen years as the devoted principal of St. Robert School, Mrs. Beckmann has announced her upcoming retirement, which will commence after the duration of this school year. Beginning her career in 1999 as a special education teacher, Mrs. Beckmann has been dedicated to her students, school, and faith from start to finish, being the longest standing principal in St. Robert’s 106-year history. “She embraces our philosophy of educating and nurturing the whole child. She really embodies our Catholic faith-identity as a school,” affirms Mrs. Felber, director of marketing and engagement at St. Robert.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, Mrs. Beckmann was tasked with a heavy load. In the 2020-2021 school year, when most schools did not open their doors to teachers and students, Mrs. Beckmann truly took up the role of saint and leader, putting immense effort into figuring out what could be done to make in-person school a reality during the pandemic. “At that point in time, there were so many unknowns, but she was thoughtful. She read studies, and she did research to try to guide our school through a safe way of reopening,” explains Mrs. Felber. 

Not only was Mrs. Beckmann faced with the trials of leading a school through a pandemic, but she also faced much controversy from some parents of students concerning her decisions. However, Mrs. Beckmann’s “decisions were achieved by consulting with others, meaning every side of the subject, listening to people who disagree and agree,” states Mrs. Hagedorn, St. Robert’s secretary. When Mrs. Beckmann decided to reopen the school, she met with some pushback not only from individuals within the school community, but the Village of Shorewood as well. However, her goal has never been to be the most popular person: her goal was – and remains to be – to do what’s best for her students, for St. Robert School. As a result, St. Robert never closed its doors after the initial shutdown in the Spring of 2020. St. Robert was open every day. Soon enough, other principals sought Mrs. Beckmann’s advice.

Moreover, under her leadership during the pandemic, St. Robert’s enrollment skyrocketed. In the fall of 2020, St. Robert welcomed 90 new students, 83% of whom re-enrolled the following year. Also in 2020, Mrs. Beckmann received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Educator Award for her incredible leadership during the pandemic. “In her eyes, there are no roadblocks, just different paths to get where we are trying to go. In the darkest of days she never gives up because she believes with every fiber of her being that the Holy Spirit will guide her where He wants us to go and He will provide the means to get there. He has come through for her every time… sometimes in the eleventh hour, but always sees her to the finish line,” asserts Mrs. Flynn, one of St. Robert’s 4K teachers and sister of Mrs. Beckmann.

Mrs. Beckmann’s leadership extends beyond St. Robert School. Mrs. Beckmann built the first Special Education Program in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “The special education program is like no other. We truly have the best, most comprehensive program,” says Ms. Felber. This program enables students with learning challenges to severe disabilities to be fully integrated into a Catholic school setting — and succeed. Mrs. Beckmann also helped create the Marian Scholars Program, an inclusive education program, at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School. 

Mrs. Beckmann’s vision and mindset for St. Robert are fully founded in her faith. As Mrs. Hagedorn explained, Mrs. Beckmann’s faith is more deeply ingrained in her than putting on glasses. Everything is seen through a lens, and Mrs. Beckmann’s faith is like that: she sees everything – from the youngest student to the oldest grandparent, from families with financial aid to families without – through the lens of her Christian faith. Mrs. Beckmann shares a beaming smile with every person she sees — but her compassion goes far beyond a smile. Mrs. Beckmann’s mission is to bring Jesus to everyone, being the hands and eyes of Christ, embracing the world with that kind of care, love, and beauty. She has always stood firm on Christian Truth and morality, encouraging her students to do the same. Phil Anderas, a parent of three students, says, “From our first meeting with Mrs. Beckmann, it was clear that she cares more about being a faithful Christian than about being Roman Catholic. Her joyful faith in Christ and considered commitment to pedagogy in pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty sold us on St. Robert from the start, and we have been delighted by her loving leadership ever since. She is irreplaceable.”

The best way to teach is by example, and Mrs. Beckmann does just that; she models the virtuous behavior she expects from her staff and students. Even though Mrs. Beckmann will soon be leaving St. Robert School, her legacy will live on in her students and staff. Mrs. Beckmann is a saint and leader. She epitomizes this mission statement. One thing everyone will remember from Mrs. Beckmann is to work hard, be good to each other, and make it a great day.

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