NEWARK — Kelly Lanza took a chance a few years ago, taking her family to Kentucky, where she was principal at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, But now the Philadelphia native is back in the Delaware Valley, happy to be home.
“I missed my family. I’m very close with my family. It was a great adventure, but it was definitely time to come home,” she said.
Lanza returned to become the principal of Christ the Teacher Catholic School, bringing with her experience as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and high school levels. Prior to her two years in Louisville, she was an assistant principal at Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia and Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa. She has been principal at West Catholic High School and St. Martin de Porres School, both in Philadelphia.
A native of Philadelphia, Lanza was bitten by the education bug early on.
“I have very vivid memories of standing in the dining room and teaching to my little dolls and animals and just loving every second of it. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” she said recently in her office at Christ the Teacher.
She recalls the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters from her elementary school days at St. Martin of Tours, including Sisters Phyllis, Fran and Renee. It was Sister Renee who encouraged her to follow her passion for music. To this day, Lanza plays piano and sings at parishes around the area.
She graduated in 1994 from Little Flower High School in Philadelphia, where her principal, the late Marie Gallagher, provided a glimpse into educational administration.
“We almost closed,” Lanza recalled. “Marie Gallagher got our class through that with grace and excellence, and she’s the reason I wanted to be a leader someday.”
Lanza has spent the summer getting to know the staff at Christ the Teacher, as well as the school itself. She said the facility is “beautiful,” and she likes the charism of the Mercy Sisters that fills the halls. The pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, one of the sponsoring parishes of the school, is Oblate Father Ed Ogden, who has experience in education. That has been a help, according to Lanza.
“It’s really great when you have a pastor that really understands the struggles of leading a school and just the day-to-day work that teachers do,” she said.
She met with the teachers over the summer and has worked with her three assistant principals in anticipation of the 2023-24 academic year. Lanza describes herself as “a go-getter” who likes to move quickly, but a quote on one of the walls at Christ the Teacher reminds her that sometimes, it is good to slow down.
“’If you want to go fast, you go alone. But if you want to go slow, you bring everybody with you,’” Lanza said. “And that is something that has stuck with me starting this new position. Taking deep breaths, pausing and saying who’s with me? Have I taken the time to make sure I’m being clear? Is everybody on board?”
One of her goals this year is to make sure the teachers have time to collaborate. That is not always a given in education, she said. They need to be working together toward the same goal.
Lanza and her husband, Lou, live in Delaware County, Pa., with son Louis and daughter Ella. In addition to singing at churches, she is a member of an Irish band, and she creates dollhouse miniatures.
“It accesses a different part of my brain and allows me to be creative in a different way,” she said.
Her streaming interests are varied. She finished watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” over the summer, and she wanted to see the final season of “Jack Ryan.”
Lanza said she is a big fan of Philadelphia’s athletic teams, but she will definitely add another set of Eagles to her fanhood, the ones who wear maroon.