A quote displayed on the office door of St. Pius V principal Nancy Cullinan Nasko (BA ‘75) says a lot about how she approaches her job. “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
“People will judge you by the way you treat others,” she explains. Now in her 17th year as leader of St. Pius V, Nasko recently earned two prestigious honors. In October, she received the Distinguished Principal Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Only 61 principals from throughout the country received the award, and just four were from Catholic schools. She also recently received the Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Education Association.
She says she shares the credit with her dedicated staff members. Nasko, who began teaching at St. Pius V 27 years ago, also says her long history with the school has been an asset.
St. Pius V is located in the Pilsen community of Chicago, where Nasko has lived for 39 years. It serves 236 preschool through eighth-grade students, 85 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. With so many living at the poverty level, fundraising and searching for financial assistance opportunities are big priorities for Nasko. “I’ve never met a parent who doesn’t want to send their child here, once they find us and have taken our tour. But many of our parents work for minimum wage or have lost their jobs in the past couple of years.”
Nasko thinks of herself as an instructional leader, faith leader, and cheerleader. “Principals in the Archdiocese wear a lot of different hats. But even on my hardest days, I feel very honored to be here.” She has built many partnerships that have enhanced the learning experience for students. Donor organizations have contributed a new science lab, technology upgrades, and air conditioning, to name a few.
Nasko credits her Loyola education for giving her a compassionate foundation. She also met her husband of 39 years, John, in a class on the first day of school.
When asked about the most rewarding part of her job, Nasko gets emotional, but she’s quick to answer: “The best part is having kids thank us for what we’ve done for them. It can be the tiniest thing, like giving a Band-Aid. They tell me they love me, and I try to tell them I love them every day. I’m very proud of the peaceful climate at my school. I’m honored to share these children with their parents.”