Patricia Griffin attended a Catholic girls school in South Boston and it was quite a morning commute for the teenager. She took a bus to Harvard Square from her home in Somerville, a train to a stop in Southie, then walked to school from there.
"I was exhausted and sometimes couldn't get a seat on the train," Griffin recalled. "But that was life. It's funny when I hear kids complain about taking the bus today."
Griffin, who now lives in Shelton with her husband Gerry, has been the interim principal of St. Jude School in Monroe since July.
"I love St. Jude," she said. "I love seeing the kids' everyday, the smiles and toothless grins. The things to be shared."
Griffin and her husband have four grown children. Prior to coming to St. Jude, she taught for 22 years, with 21 of them at Catholic schools.
"I went to Catholic School for 12 years, until college because I couldn't afford a Catholic college," said Griffin. "My parents were very faith-based people. They wanted to give us the best education, bound by Christian values. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood. We were the first Irish kids in the Catholic school. They helped us to go there."
As a student, Griffin looked up to her teachers.
"They loved coming to school everyday," she said. "It's very inspirational to see someone who loves what they do. The day I don't want to do it anymore, and the day I wake up grumpy, is the day I leave the profession."
Griffin said what she loves most is the opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives.
Welcoming and Gracious
Griffin said her staff works hard everyday and that the parents are invested in their children's education. "They volunteer a lot of hours," she said. "They send their kids to Catholic school, because they want them to have a faith-based education."
"I met really nice people in town — the bus company, the superintendent and first selectman —and everybody has been welcoming and very gracious and very supportive of the schools," she said.
"I am an educator who believes in building independence and promoting leadership skills in students," Griffin said.
At the beginning of the school year, Griffin decided to host an ice cream social and she invited the older students to help prepare for the event and to serve ice cream.
"They felt proud with what they did," she said with a smile. "I want to grow the kids in prayer. I invited them to pray with me in front of the school."
Now the older children have taken over morning prayer.
St. Jude has a vibrant student council and a Make a Difference Committee led by two girls, who plan public service projects.
The school also has a Book Buddy Leaders group, in which older kids team up with younger ones and mentor them.
"You want to grow your kids to be leaders, softened by relationships with younger kids and for the younger kids to look up to and want to emulate the positive attributes of the older kids," Griffin said.
"It's powerful what kids can do if you give them the right type of mentoring," she said. "I think we want to send the kids out of here, not just well versed in academics, but well versed in living the gospel's values and life skills. They will carry them through."
Griffin loves teaching. While a first grade teacher at St. Ann's in Bridgeport, she won an award recognizing a teacher for making a difference in parents' and childrens' lives in the community in a unique way.
Griffin earned an educational leadership degree from Sacred Heart University and had been striving to be a principal for a while.
"I've been in the pool of candidates and had been interviewing for jobs over the years," she said. "When I just decided to go back to my classroom and do what I was doing naturally, I got the call in May."
The superintendent of the Diocese asked Griffin about taking over the position at St. Jude School. She is now serving one year as interim principal. A committee for the Diocese will then interview for the principal position in the fall.
When asked if she wants to be chosen as St. Jude School's principal, Griffin said she does, but added, "God has a path for everyone."
Griffin's path has always involved Catholic schools.
"I want to teach in a faith-based community. Talk about Jesus — that we have to love one another," she said. "I chose the path of a Catholic education early on and stayed on that path."