by Cori Hilsgen
Matthew Reichert was recently selected as the next principal of the St. John’s Preparatory School.
Reichert has been filling in as acting principal since July 2011. He will continue as acting principal for the rest of this school year and will begin duties as the principal on July 1.
Reichert, who is originally from Richmond, was chosen from a nationwide search conducted by an interview committee consisting of current faculty and parents, alumnae and students.
Reichert attended Sts. Peter and Paul Elementary School in Richmond and ROCORI Middle and High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and his master’s of education from the University of Notre Dame and is currently completing his master’s of arts from Notre Dame. Reichert has been a faculty member of St. John’s Preparatory School and also a faculty resident and adjunct instructor at St. John’s University since 2007.
Reichert had originally planned to go to law school after college, but while working for the St. John’s Boys’ Choir during college, he discovered he enjoyed teaching.
“I never started the job thinking I would want to teach, let alone teach third-grade boys how to play the recorder,” Reichert said, “but, I fell in love with it.”
Reichert said after graduating from college he was intrigued by the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame. The main focus of the program is to support and sustain Catholic schools across the United States. Program participants are placed in under-resourced Catholic schools throughout the southern United States. Reichert taught American history, American literature and theology at Memphis (Tenn.) Catholic High School. The school is an inner-city school that serves a very diverse and very low socio-economic population.
“Being a product of Catholic education, I was drawn to supporting Catholic schools for future generations,” Reichert said.
He said he was interested in the mission and vision of the Alliance, and also the volunteer opportunity to work in the inner-city. After two years of volunteering in Memphis, he was hooked.
After Reichert graduated from Notre Dame in 2007, he moved back to Minnesota and began teaching at SJP and also at St. John’s University.
“When given the opportunity to come back to St. John’s – a place and community that I love – I jumped at it,” Reichert said.
SJP School is a Catholic Benedictine private day and boarding school which provides students of all faiths – grades 6-12 – a college-preparatory curriculum. Boarding options for students begin in the 9th grade.
Located within the St. John’s University campus, it is the oldest high school in Minnesota. Originally an all-male school, females began enrolling in 1972 when the nearby St. Benedict’s High School closed.
Students from Asia, Europe, Africa and South America have represented about 20 percent of the SJP enrollment in the past five years. Some of these students stay for a one-year experience, but many complete their high-school education and go on to colleges and universities in the United States before they return home.
SJP Middle School opened in 1997 with 21 students in the 7th and 8th grades. A 6th-grade program was added in the 2009-2010 school year. Reichert said currently 318 students from 20 countries are enrolled in grades 6-12.
Reichert’s vision for SJP includes recognizing the 154 years of traditions, experiences, lives, stories, successes, failures and history of the school.
“In order for us to continue to be successful, we need to be true to our identity and who we are,” Reichert said. ‘We cannot manufacture an identity, or assume an identity that belongs to someone else.”
Reichert said SJP is a Catholic school that pursues wisdom through the Benedictine tradition and a connection through two of the best Catholic colleges of St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict. He believes this offers students an unmatched opportunity for college preparation.
Reichert said he believes the monastic way of life, and the community itself, is the heartbeat for SJP. As a school, he said he feels they offer flexibility and allows for creativity while staying rooted in tradition and encouraging new approaches and ways of teaching that keep that tradition vibrant and relevant. Reichert said he feels each of these features of SJP is fundamental to who they are, where they are going and how they will continue to educate students and faculty.
“It’s working,” Reichert said. “We have a very high faculty morale, a palpable excitement about the place and our ministry as educators. Our students are very supportive of their school and are constantly achieving great things. Our parents are enthusiastic about the education their children receive and the community to which they, too, belong. Plus our admissions numbers are up with waiting lists in five of our seven grades this year, even more full next year.”
Reichert is married to his wife, Theresa, who is a nurse at the St. Cloud Hospital. They have a daughter, Audrey, who was born last year. Theresa has done many trips for medical missions and nursing abroad, in locations such as South Africa, India, Haiti and Liberia. Reichert’s father is a graduate of the SJP 1977 class and works for Anderson Trucking Service. His mother works for the State Bank of Richmond and his brother is a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, stationed in Virginia.