By Celine Klosterman
MUSCATINE — An alumnus of its predecessor is now serving as principal of Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School.
Ben Nietzel began work at the prekindergarten to fifth-grade school this summer. He graduated in 1988 from Bishop Hayes Catholic School, which was renamed Saints Mary and Mathias in 2010.
“This was always a place I held really fondly in my heart,” he said. “When the opportunity arose to come back here, I thought it was fantastic.”
Nietzel taught history and geography for the past 11 years at Muscatine High School, where he also coached football and basketball. He earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Northern Iowa, a master’s degree in teaching and leadership from St. Xavier University in Chicago, and a certificate in educational administration from St. Xavier’s this May.
He belongs to Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine.
“We felt strongly that Ben, having a connection with the parish and as an alumnus of the school, was the best choice,” said Father Jason Crossen, pastor, of the school board’s decision. “We wanted a principal who could speak to the strengths of Catholic education and our Catholic community in Muscatine.
“Ben also has a wonderful working relationship with the Muscatine Community School system.” He will continue coaching public-school students as long as doing so is feasible with the responsibilities of a principal, Fr. Crossen said.
At Saints Mary and Mathias, Nietzel wants to continue providing a strong Catholic faith foundation for students. “Our Catholic component is the reason we exist,” he said. Also, “We have great teachers, and I want to have a top-flight educational program in which parents feel they get best of both worlds: strong academics and faith.”
Nietzel takes over for Ann Gomez, who had served as principal at the Catholic school since 2008.
He and his wife of three years, Molly, an accountant, have an 18-month-old daughter, Gianna. The couple is expecting a baby later this month.
Saints Mary and Mathias had 98 K-5 students and 117 preschoolers in spring 2012.