St. Marguerite Catholic School has come quite a way since opening four decades ago. And for Trisha Kirkbride, the school’s new principal, the future looks bright.
Kirkbride, who formerly was a Salt Lake County Sheriff’s deputy, said she is thrilled to lead the school into the future when classes resume next month.
“I have always tried to be faith-guided,” she said. “I know I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be. This is the Lord’s will.”
The school started in the basement of St. Marguerite Catholic Church 40 years ago but today has its own modern school building next to the church at 15 S. 7th St. in Tooele. There are currently 149 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Kirkbride’s experience in law enforcement has given her unique skills that add to her leadership role as a principal. In addition, Kirkbride also brings a unique perspective to the school, having grown up near San Diego, California.
She came to the Salt Lake area to visit her grandparents and decided to stay to study cosmetology. Next, she decided she wanted to be a police officer, so she attended the Peace Officer Standards and Training School. After graduation, she became a deputy with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Twenty years later, she retired at the rank of lieutenant.
Post-retirement, Kirkbride began contemplating her next goal. She always had an interest in being a school teacher, and began to pray in earnest about becoming one.
“I realized I wanted to pursue my love — I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “So I went and got my Master’s degree from the University of Southern California.”
Her goal? To become a high school English teacher.
While she worked in Salt Lake County, she had given birth to a son in 2010. As he reached school age, she sent him to school at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church.
Following her retirement in 2008, Kirkbride and husband, Ryan, moved to Stansbury Park. Both Ryan and Trisha Kirkbride attended St. Marguerite Catholic Church, and as they continued to attend, Trisha realized that she wanted to give back to the church community.
“It is a testament of what I know, that I wanted my son to get a Catholic education,” she said.
So, she started investigating, and asked then principal Lorena Needham for a tour.
“We walked around, and I asked about teaching,” she recalled. “She offered me the chance to teach the fourth and fifth grades that year.”
Because of the small number of students that year, those two grades were combined into one class.
“So during the 2014/2015 school year, I was teaching here,” Kirkbride said.
It turned out to be the right decision.
“I realized I had been called to the ministry of teaching,” she said.
Kirkbride taught for two years and then she opted to take a break to focus on being a mom.
The next school year, she was asked to come back and teach — and Kirkbride was ready.
Teaching English and language arts in middle school was wonderful, she said. But she sensed there was more growth to come.
“I always felt prompted I would go back to administrative work, but I absolutely love teaching,” she said.
Then the principal seat at the school opened and she applied.
“I felt as though I could share my love of teaching and my love of the students and it would be a good fit because of my background and abilities,” she said.
Through this administrative position, she realized she was melding training from two of her past positions — as a teacher and a peace officer.
“As an educator, I feel a strong sense that we are providing a more specialized education,” she said. “I can create a physically safe and secure environment because my sense of care comes naturally.”
Kirkbride is eager to talk about the St. Marguerite experience and the potential she sees for the school and each of the students’ individual growth.
First, she notes the current enrollment allows yet more potential students.
The school offers education to children ages 3 years old to eighth-grade. Currently, the school’s 149-student enrollment leaves space for 50 more children.
Regarding the students’ development, Kirkbride says the school’s aim is to focus on each individual child.
The goal is to build the whole child — working on character development, nurturing a Catholic identity, learning to live virtuously, being good stewards of the earth and being community-focused.
“I really feel like we are a part of all those good things in our school,” she said.
Kirkbride is quick to praise the volunteers who serve the school community. She said the volunteers see that they have a stake in the growth of the kids.
“They are amazing, they help with lunch, the reading program, in every way and every day, they are there – both parents and parishioners volunteer,” she said.
The school provides rigorous academics in the middle school, she added, which prepares students to do well in high school and college.
Kirkbride explained the pre-elementary options St. Marguerite also offers. Among these are the preschool for 3 year-olds, with both half- and full-day options. There is also a pre-kindergarten for 4 year-olds, with half- and full-day schedules.
And, finally, St. Marguerite’s kindergarten is a full-day class.
The elementary school is kindergarten through fifth grade, while the middle school covers grades sixth through eighth.
Kirkbride likes that all class sizes are small.
“If we have a class of more than 20 students, we will split it,” she said. “I love that fact that all students get that individual, one-on-one attention from the teacher.”
In addition to focusing on providing students with more of the teachers’ attention through small class sizes, Kirkbride also plans to be heavily involved in interacting with each student.
“I do know every student in the school,” she said.
This fall, she said, the school will offer a children’s choir, Spanish and intermediate Spanish, art, band/music and advanced band.
The school will also continue with its before- and after-school care program. According to Kirkbride, there has been a need for the service and the school will continue the programs in the fall. For full-time students, who need additional care, the morning program will run from 6:30 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. The school bell rings at 8:15 a.m.
The after-school program will run from when school dismisses at 3:15 p.m. until 6 p.m.
“The cost is very affordable,” she said.
Kirkbride said every student and every family is invited into the St. Marguerite’s fold.
“We welcome all families, “she said. “Let us give you a chance to see what we can offer you. There is a difference in our school and let us see if we could help you afford a Catholic education.”
Students are not required to be Catholic to enroll in the school, she said.
“We have had students of every religious denomination come to our school and we want everyone to feel welcomed,” she said.
Kirkbride said St. Marguerite’s purpose is to teach each child to learn, dream, believe, serve and aspire to succeed to live and give Glory to God.
Kirkbride’s career path toward becoming principal at St. Marguerite is unconventional, but it seems to her to be a great fit.
After all, she said, “Our lives are to bring Glory to God.”