Vanessa Rymer is loving her first year at Resurrection of Our Lord Elementary School.
Resurrection, at 2020 Shelmire Ave. in Rhawnhurst, has 357 students in pre-kindergarten 3 through eighth grade. The school draws from the neighborhood, along with the areas near the former Our Lady of Ransom, which closed in 2012, and St. Martin of Tours, which became an Independence Mission School in 2013.
Students from more than 45 racial and ethnic backgrounds attend Resurrection, and Rymer believes she can relate to them.
The new principal’s mom is from Cuba and her dad is from China.
“My heart feels for the demographics we have,” she said.
Rymer attended public schools in Edison, New Jersey and earned an English degree from Rutgers and a master’s in education from Seton Hall.
Over the years, she has served as a teacher and principal at a number of public, charter and private schools, mostly in New Jersey. Two of her three children attended Catholic schools and had a good experience.
For the last three years, she worked in Florida.
When she decided to return home, she was in touch with Sister Margaret Rose Adams, IHM, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s assistant superintendent of elementary schools.
Sister Margaret Rose asked her to look at the list of principal openings and choose one to pursue. Rymer interviewed with Sister Margaret Rose and the Rev. Jim DeGrassa, the Resurrection pastor, and was hired.
“I did my research and chose Resurrection,” she said. “I noticed the diversity and that it is a beautiful school. This school is a gem.”
Rymer saw Resurrection as having a great legacy and a strong alumni.
“My goal is to continue that legacy,” she said.
Graduates are helping her continue that legacy. A recent all-class reunion at the FOP raised more than $20,000.
Rymer plans to use the money to add a second library geared to pupils in pre-K through second grade.
“Our vision is to have a library for early childhood. We have a need for literacy,” she said.
So far this year, Resurrection has taken part in Faith & Blue, an initiative with law enforcement. The school has relationships with the fire department, Northeast Detectives and 2nd Police District Sgt. Matthew Lowe and community relations officer Mark Mroz to help produce fire prevention and anti-bullying programs.
Resurrection has a traffic plan in the morning and at dismissal so parents aren’t double parking on Shelmire Avenue.
The school has a large number of Brazilian and Portuguese students, and to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Rymer invited Mike Andino, of Fishtown’s Estilo Dance Studio, to lead salsa dance lessons for students and their parents Friday night in the cafeteria.
Some 65 percent of Resurrection students are Catholic. Tuition is $5,000, supplemented for many students by the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools and Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia.
Rymer said Resurrection boasts a rigorous education, including teaching for English language and special needs learners.
The faculty is a mix of veterans and younger teachers.
“Our teachers have so much heart and passion,” Rymer said.
Rymer is living in her hometown of Edison, in Central Jersey, and looks forward to the school day despite a lengthy commute.
“It’s a warm school,” she said. “I feel innovative in the school. I love what I do.” ••