Trinette Stillman used to spend summers in Rehoboth Beach, and when the pandemic began, she and her husband decided to ride out the shutdown at their home in the resort town. A longtime teacher, she stayed in the First State when schools reopened, and she spent last year working at Beacon Middle School in the Cape Henlopen School District.
But that was a temporary gig, and her Catholic school roots run deep. So, when the principal’s position opened up at Most Blessed Sacrament School in Berlin, Md., she decided to apply.
“I knew it existed, but I didn’t know much about it,” she said recently. “My heart’s with Catholic education because that’s where my life has been. As far as being principal, I had thought about it a couple of times.”
During her career as a teacher, first in Virginia, then in Wisconsin, she and husband Greg were raising three daughters, so the time she would have had to invest as a principal was prohibitive. Now that they are older – the youngest just started college – “it affords me the time to get into it. It was the right time, the right situation.”
Stillman originally became familiar with Delaware while working in Virginia. Friends there introduced her to Sussex County, and the Stillmans loved it enough to buy a house there. They eventually relocated to Wisconsin but would spend the summer in Rehoboth Beach.
“The first time you come, you’re hooked,” she said.
They still love going to the beach with friends they’ve made over their years in Sussex County. They also like to ride bicycles and paddleboard. One daughter lives nearby, while another is in Minnesota and the other goes to college in Florida.
Since assuming the principal position on July 1, she has been getting to know the school, its staff and families. The former principal, Kathy Manns, has been “very gracious” with her time and expertise, Stillman said. She plans on a mix of observation and action during her initial months at Most Blessed Sacrament. One of the areas she would like to upgrade sooner rather than later is with the technology and related support.
“That was one area that needed help before I got here,” she said.
She is also working to streamline the lunch program and to get more resources online. She hopes to have more food choices and to move invoicing online. Last year made things more difficult because the students had to eat in their rooms. As far as personnel goes, Stillman doesn’t expect to have to do much.
“That’s a place I don’t have to go in right away and make changes,” she said.
She also will be busy with accreditation and long-term planning for the school building. Down the road, she plans to look at the curriculum and determine what, if any, changes need to be made.
Stillman did not go into education immediately after graduating from Michigan State University. She earned a degree in package engineering, and she worked in sales for package displays. She was a religious-education teacher at her parish in Virginia when the principal told her they had a vacancy for a financial manager. Her full-time job involved a lot of travel, and she was ready for a change of scenery.
“I was ready to make a change,” she said. “That’s how I fell in love with teaching.”
Stillman grew up in a large German Catholic family in Michigan. A Catholic school education was not practical as there were no schools nearby aside from a small one that stopped at third grade.
“For us, it was our Sunday school and our CCD classes. Our parents were a big influence,” she said.
She is happy she found Catholic schools. She likes the ability to talk about her faith and the more intimate feel many of them have.
“It’s the smaller, caring facilities that you get. We all have the same calling and the same focus. It’s more internally how we feel about the world and being able to go to Mass during the school day.
“Once you see it and experience it, you definitely fall in love with it. You see how it makes a difference in your kids and your life at home,” she said.