For the past forty-four years, Kristi Blair has served the Jackson community, first as a teacher at Queen of the Miraculous Medal School, then as a teacher at St. John Elementary School, and, for the last eleven years, as principal at St. John’s. She will be retiring at the end of this school year.
After graduating from Central Michigan University with a degree in elementary education, Kristi started her career as a substitute teacher in the Jackson Public Schools due to a very tight job market for elementary school teachers. In the spring of 1978, Mrs. Mary Jane Cagney, the principal at Queen of the Miraculous Medal and Kristi’s former 8th grade teacher, asked Kristi to interview for an open position as a fourth-grade teacher. Though she had been raised in a Catholic home, attended Queen’s, and graduated from Lumen Christi, Kristi had, like many college students, fallen away from the practice of her faith.
“When I interviewed for the position at Queen’s, Mrs. Cagney said it was mine if I wanted it. Though teaching in a Catholic school was absolutely not on my radar at that time, teaching jobs were difficult to find. I had wanted to be a teacher since I was five, and was glad for the opportunity for a full-time teaching position. After two years at Queen’s, the closing of a classroom meant that I, as the lowest seniority teacher on staff, would be laid off. Mrs. Cagney made me aware of a position at St. John’s for which I interviewed and was hired. By the time I moved to St. John’s, I was again attending weekly Mass. There was a series of homilies by Father Dave Howell, pastor of St. John at the time, that had a profound impact on me and prompted me to make an appointment with him for the most honest and thorough confession I’ve ever made. That experience helped my faith to travel from my head to my heart, and was a turning point in my life.
Betsy Saunders, once a student of Kristi’s and now a teacher at St. John Elementary, had this to say:
I first had her as my 6th grade teacher 36 years ago! I admired her then and do even more now. My own children have gone through St. John’s and my oldest daughter had her and just loved her. She then became the principal the very next year! I was blessed to be hired by Kristi as the 6th grade teacher, which was both intimidating and a privilege at the same time. How was I going to ever fill her shoes?
Kristi leads by example in her faith and expertise in the field of education. To observe her during a parent conference or with students is truly amazing. Each meeting begins with a prayer. Patiently, she guides them to making the best decision for their child, or if it’s students, to settle a problem and try to be more like Jesus would want us to be. Oftentimes, she will even walk students to the chapel to sit and listen or discuss a problem he/she may be having.
Kristi spends every weekend and many late hours working after school each day to make sure our school is running smoothly. There is never a “t” not crossed or an “i” not dotted. Her love and dedication for our SJS is very evident in all she does. While we are happy for her to be able to enjoy her retirement with her family and friends, we know finding someone to replace her will be a difficult task for sure!
Vicki James, a teacher at St. John Elementary, commented:
I have worked with Kristi Blair for 33 years. She was the teacher next door and was so welcoming when I first started here. As a new teacher I was so amazed by her teaching style and the love and respect she had for her students and they in return for her.I wanted to be just like her. After a few years I realized that I could never duplicate her, but I realized I could learn a lot from her. She was always there for me as a teacher and as a principal. She is so dedicated to our school – you will find her staying late, arriving early before 6:15, and on weekends. Her love and faith in God shines through in her words, examples, and her life. She gives 200% every day. She is there to help you in a problem or to guide you when you need advice on how to handle a parent or a child. She compliments and praises her staff and teachers. She always asks, “How can I help?” I love the way she talks to a child and the words she chooses to help them. It truly amazes me how she knows the right words to say to an upset child or an irate parent, how she asks if they need to talk or if something is bothering them.
She would give the shirt off her back to help anyone. I could go on and on about all the committees and little things she does to make our school shine bright. I feel so Blessed to have taught with her and to have taught under her as a teacher. God knew what he was doing when he put her at our school and in all of our lives.
Kristie Wasick, another teacher at St. John Elementary added,
Kristi is the heart of St. John School. She goes above and beyond any job description or expectations of a principal. She brings out the best in teachers, students, and parents. I have worked with her as a teaching partner and now as principal and have witnessed her positive and spiritual impact on St. John School. I have learned so much from her. She actively listens and truly cares about every person here. Her dedication and commitment to Catholic education is remarkable and inspiring. Our school will truly miss her!
Though Kristi doesn’t have a clear plan for retirement, she is confident the Lord will make it clear how she should be spending the next chapter in her life. “Looking back, it’s easy to see God’s hand all over my journey – in the people, the experiences and in the grace and guidance I’ve received. I’m blessed beyond measure!”
Thank you, Kristi, for your dedicated service to the families of Jackson over the last forty-four years. May the Lord bless you and keep you and your family in the months and years ahead!
Fr. Gordon Reigle
Fr. Gordon Reigle grew up in Jackson, Michigan, studied industrial engineering at Western Michigan University, and worked six years in the IT industry before entering seminary to study at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. Ordained for the Diocese of Lansing in 2005, Fr. Gordon has served parishes around the diocese in Saline, Lansing, Flushing and Montrose. He also spent six years in youth ministry as Chaplain of Lansing Catholic High School. Fr. Gordon is now the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish / St. John Church & Student Center in East Lansing. Fr. Gordon was a student at Queen of the Miraculous Medal Parish, Jackson Catholic Middle School, and Lumen Christi High School. He graduated from Lumen Christi in 1990.
In reflecting on his years at Lumen Christi, Fr. Gordon has great memories of the positive influence many of the teachers had on his life, including Herb Brogan in History, Mary Ellen Miller in English and German, and Fr. Richard McClernan for Science. “One of the teachers I enjoyed tremendously for every class I could take, but also in terms of my vocation, is Fr. Richard McClernan. I enjoyed his balance, his humor, his love of science and his love of the Lord. It was a passing comment in the library a week before graduation; he said to me ‘Gordon, you would make a good priest.’ Sometimes you just need a little bit of encouragement from someone you know, you love, and you respect.”
Fr. Gordon is encouraged by the faith life of the students and families he serves in East Lansing. “It’s a beautiful age to be able to serve the Church, and see the next generation come up – love the faith, learn the faith, and share the faith – and be their own missionaries. To all of my classmates, we missed our 30th reunion due to covid. I do pray for you and wish you well. Hopefully we’ll be together by the fortieth. God bless you all.”
The Founding of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic School
St. Mary’s School, like all institutions, began as an idea, but on June 30th, 1889, amidst a great deal of fanfare, that idea took on substance with the laying of the school’s cornerstone. The right Reverend Bishop Foley, Bishop of Detroit, was on hand for the occasion and explained the significance of the event and that of the School in the following words:
We are gathered around the cornerstone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to bless it and to dedicate this new school, as the Roman Catholic Church dedicates all things to the service of God. The prayers that were offered are to God, that He will bless this undertaking, and in the coming years, all who are benefitted by this school, will give the credit to God. All that is accomplished beneath this roof we pray may tend to the honor and glory of God.
All we do should tend to God’s honor and glory, for no other end can satisfy the heart and soul created by an omnipotent God. It can only be satiated by possession of the immortal and eternal. It was for this the Divine Lord took on himself flesh and came on earth to teach men the true worship of the Father. He gave the apostles a specific mission, saying to them, “go ye, teach all nations whatsoever I have commanded and behold I am with you to the consummation of the world!
The July 1, 1889 Jackson Daily Citizen, reporting on the event, said that the bishop, addressing a “sweltering mass of people that occupied every inch of available space on Wesley Street”, further congratulated from his inmost heart the congregation of St. Mary’s and its energetic pastor, Fr. John Malaney, for the realization of their plans in the building of this fine school. “It is an important event,” he said, “for the school house is as necessary as the church.”
Though much has changed since 1889, our vision remains the same:
Guided by our Catholic Tradition, we provide the highest quality education and empower students to excel spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. We inspire them to reach their full potential and be the Light of Christ in this life and for eternity.