Wolf takes over as principal of St. Anthony School

Experienced educator also will lead religious education program

First a Catholic school student, then a teacher and now a principal.

Catholic schools have long been at the center of Alex Wolf’s life. The Waukesha native has joined the staff of St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Oconto Falls as its elementary school principal and religious education director.

“We’re very excited to have Alex here,” said the Rev. Joel Sember, pastor of St. Anthony’s, Holy Trinity and St. Patrick’s churches. “He brings a varied background and a lot of youth and enthusiasm, and quite a bit of classroom experience as well.”

Wolf attended Catholic schools from first grade through college then taught six years at Catholic high schools, making him more than familiar with the Catholic school atmosphere.

“Where I came from, the Catholic school provided a safe haven for the kids and a loving environment,” he said. He said a Catholic school education also teaches things not found in a public school setting.

“It helps develop the whole person more completely,” he said.

Wolf said he’s ready to bolster the school and religious education program, and also offer a fresh perspective.

“Coming from the high school world and being younger myself, I have a little different take on the typical kid’s understanding of religion,” he said.

He’s current with today’s technology and knows what kids are listening to and what’s trending on social media. He plans to weave this information into programs at the parish.

The religious education program is open to students in first grade through high school who do not attend the day school. Enrollment was under way for the 2016-17 religious education program; about 165 students were enrolled last year.

For the elementary school children, he sees his role as helping to develop good behavior and a good outlook on life.

“It’s so vital at this age to do that, to build some of those good virtues in them,” he said.

St. Anthony’s School has an enrollment of 63 students attending the 3-year-old preschool program to fifth grade. Wolf oversees a staff of six teachers at the school.

“They know what they’re doing, so I’m very blessed to have that. My approach … is to kind of stay out of their way,” he said with a laugh.

The school updated its technology over the summer, with new tablets, Chromebooks and desktop computers. Through the generosity of an unnamed donor, air conditioning was installed the day before classes started for the school year. The gift draws attention to an ongoing challenge for Catholic schools — money.

“It’s expensive to run a school, and we understand that parents struggle to send their kids here, but they still make the sacrifice. It’s always a balancing act between the two: keep tuition low, yet pay our employees a reasonable wage,” Wolf said.

Sember said St. Anthony’s will strive to grow the school, both in resources available and number of students.

“We feel Alex is the right person to lead us there,” he said.

Wolf earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ave Maria University in Florida, then taught high school theology at a Catholic high school in Texas for three years and at Xavier High School in Appleton for three years. He studied at a seminary in Denver, Colorado, for two years under the auspices of the Madison Diocese but discerned that the priesthood wasn’t his calling.

He lives in Appleton and commutes to Oconto Falls, is married and has no children. As a member of the Fox River Rowing Club, he competes in regattas and also enjoys riding motorcycles.

Wolf replaces Kate Sayers, principal and religious education director for the 2015-16 school year. Sember said Sayers did an excellent job in the position and loved working with the families, kids and the community. She had previously worked as an educator and family therapist, and the change to administration didn’t fit for personal reasons, Sember said.