Subject: A message from Chris Comella

July 15, 2013

Dear Pilgrim Community,

Setting off on a journey must be a familiar theme at a school and a church
called “Pilgrim.” Coming to the principalship at such a lively and
successful school as Pilgrim, I am excited by the blessing of joining my
journey to those of the students, their families, the staff and the
congregation. I am taking this opportunity to share with all of you
something about the journeys I have taken before joining your path,
something about what I see as important at this crossroads in our common
way, and finally some ideas of what I hope we can achieve together as we
move forward under the guidance of the school board, the congregation,
pastor and the Spirit.

First, let me say that this year marks my 31st as a professional educator.
After growing up in Chicago, I attended Wabash College in Indiana and,
then, DePaul University and Northeastern Illinois University here in
Chicago. My degrees are in English, Classical Greek, and Educational
Administration. I have taught middle school grades 5 through 8 in both
public and private schools, as well as having taught high school English
for 12 years at St. Ignatius College Prep, Weber High School and Regina
Dominican High School in the Chicago area. In addition, I taught for a year
at the Wilhelm Hoffmann Gymnasium in St. Goarshausen, Germany, as part of a
Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. For the last 14 years, I have worked as
a teacher, assistant principal and principal in Zion Elementary School
District 6 in Zion, Illinois.

In those 30 years of education I have learned that teaching is about
competence, commitment, and compassion. We—the professional
educators—and you—the children’s families and
congregation—understand the need to be committed to quality education by
first establishing goals or outcomes for each level of learning. The
outcomes to which we commit ourselves must not only meet state requirements
for quality education, but also meet the needs of each individual child in
his or her journey towards becoming a fully developed person in heart, mind
and soul. We become competent in the best ways to execute those outcomes
through using best practice and differentiation of instruction so that each
child might learn as much as possible in the style best suited to him or
her. We hold ourselves accountable by regularly checking student progress
and tracking student data within our professional learning community, with
the child, and to his or her family. Finally, we also understand that we
need compassion in our approach to each child in order to build a positive
relationship that helps to inspire and motivate him or her to do his or her
best. These qualities of commitment, competence and compassion have stood
out to me as the hallmark of a Pilgrim education as I have gotten to know
the people and mission of Pilgrim in the past weeks. These are the
qualities I hope to renew and strengthen as we lead the students in the
path of their education.

In the process of renewal and strengthening, I also see some challenges in
our future. Pilgrim, like every other school, needs to embrace fully the
new common core standards adopted by the State of Illinois. We also have
some very real challenges about how we use our space and other resources to
their maximum potential. I also see a need for continual review of how we
use technology throughout the building in order to adapt to current demands
in society. Finally, we need to renew and enrich the school’s
relationship with the mission of the congregation so that each student has
a feeling and a knowledge of the gospel values upon which Pilgrim is built.
As I join my way to Pilgrim’s journey, I fully trust that we can
accomplish all our goals for the children at Pilgrim School if we stay firm
in the faith that God will continue to help us along our journey. At
Ebenezer Lutheran, where I am a member, we recall that Samuel erected a
stone “and called its name Ebenezer, for he said, ‘Hitherto the Lord
has helped us,’” (1 Sam.6: 12). May the Spirit continue to work through
you and through me to ensure the success of our students in an even greater
way than Samuel experienced on his journey! I look forward to meeting each
of you and working with the teachers, staff, and, most importantly, the
children of Pilgrim Lutheran. If you have any questions or thoughts for
me—either about from where I have come, about my current vision, or about
what I hope our future outcomes might be—please feel free to contact me
at school. I have my walking shoes on and I am ready to move forward with
all of you!

Chris Comella