By Tony DeGol
The theme for this new academic year at Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in State College is “Take on the Heart of Jesus.”
For the first time in more than two decades in education, Chad Packer is in an environment in which he can take that mission to a whole new level.
Packer is the new principal at OLV – his first stint in Catholic education after 21 years as a teacher in the public school system.
So far, he likes what he sees.
“In what I’ve seen from my first two weeks here is the dedication and commitment from the teachers,” he noted. “They definitely have put in and helped me out as much as hopefully I’ve helped them through the process and just the nurturing atmosphere that the Catholic school and with the Church provide for the children.”
Indeed, Catholic values are at the heart and soul of the vibrant OLV school community.
Students excel academically there, but even more importantly, they learn and grow in an atmosphere where the faith is celebrated freely.
“Probably my biggest goal is to make sure that I keep a focus and mindset that Catholic values need to be integrated in part of everyday school function,” Packer said. “Probably the best way I can do that is to be the model here. When they see me they’ll see me living the faith with my family, and that’s my goal is to be a model of the Catholic faith for our students here.”
Packer, who succeeds retired principal Samantha Weakland, is not a novice in the world of Catholic education. His two children attended Saint John the Evangelist School in Bellefonte, where he was a supportive and involved parent.
As he shifts gears professionally, he’s ready for the challenge.
Not surprisingly, a lot of his focus right now is centered on making sure these first weeks of school are safe for everyone amid this coronavirus pandemic.
“The staff here has done a great job of collaborating as a group with doctors and community members to come up with a safety plan that we think is going to be successful,” Packer stated. “Our biggest goal is to model what those safety plans need to look like and implement them with the students.”
Like all Catholic schools in Altoona-Johnstown, students at OLV are wearing masks, and the desks are spread out to accommodate physical distancing.
But Packer isn’t distancing himself from looking to the future.
“My vision for Our Lady of Victory is to integrate Catholic values to promote a successful, intellectual, and spiritual education here,” he offered. “We want to make it seamless from pre k- to our elementary classrooms to our middle school with the end goal being Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy providing that Catholic faith and the education that is valuable to every student.”
As Packer spends these days getting settled in and meeting faculty, staff, students, and families, he wants everyone to know he’s committed to the mission.
“I’m willing to put in the effort,” he insisted. “I’ll be very visible. They’ll see me out front, they’ll see me in the back for pick-up, and the teachers know that they’ve had my support since day one. I’ll do whatever they need to support them and make this school as successful as it has been.”
Editor’s Note: See more of Chad Packer on Proclaim! on August 30 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Inset photo: Chad Packer assists an OLV student at lunch on the first day of the new school year.]