Sr. Dee Leaving at the End of the School Year
On Wednesday, September 7th, Sr. Delores Hannon announced her resignation as president of Mercy High School to the Board of Directors effective June 30th, 2023. She has served as president since 2009, having served for 14 years.
Sr. Dee, as she is affectionately known to students, faculty and parents, has overseen many changes at the school. The school facilities have experienced improvements with The Hannon Center for Academic Success, heating and cooling systems, new lockers, bathrooms, a dramatic facelift to the front offices and entryway, to name a few. By the time Sr. steps down, most of the school will have gone through some sort of renovation. Mercy High School has also experienced growth in their academic reputation. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the expectation that our students will be readily prepared for college” Sr. Delores explains. “We’ve expanded our counseling and SAT/ACT preparation, while faculty and staff have increased the expectations of what our students are capable of accomplishing. I have a very strong faith that the Mercy spirit continues to thrive through our students as they serve in their respective communities.”
Sr. Delores has been an educator for more than 40 years. She grew up in North English, Iowa on a mixed livestock farm, the only child of William and Mary Hannon. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1969 and quickly was tapped for leadership in schools. She became a principal at St. Matthew’s Grade School in Kalispell, Montana, in 1978 followed by a short stint at Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota, from 1981-1983. From 1983-1995 Sr. Dee was the principal at several grade schools in Iowa. She moved on to serve as the Vice President of the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the President of St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa before ultimately coming to Mercy High School in 2009.
The Board of Directors will form a search committee to begin the search process in the near
Mercy Welcomes Two New Faculty
Jim Mayberger is our new business and technology teacher. He comes to us from OPS where he was a curriculum specialist.
He managed the Business Marketing and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Skilled and Technical Science, and Robotics departments.
“I am excited to teach in a faith-based school. I really enjoy being in the classroom and I look forward to being part of the Mercy community.”
Jenna Saraka joins our math department. She comes to us from Omaha Central, where she taught for five years.
“I am most excited about joining a staff and community that offers strong educational opportunities and many extracurricular activities for students that are centered around faith.
I am also excited to work with students who are eager to learn in and out of the classroom!”
Two New Hires for the Advancement Team
Sammie Emsick Becker ’05 has accepted the Director of Events position at Mercy High School and began her new role on June 13, 2022.
Since graduating from Mercy, Sammie earned a bachelor in elementary education, a certificate in Catholic School leadership, and most recently, a Master of Science in educational leadership. Outside classroom teaching, she has served as the athletic director for St. James for the past three years where, in conjunction with supervising all things athletics, annually planned the “Spring Fling” fundraiser where dollars raised went straight to the athletic program. Her most recent “Spring Fling” event set a record for money raised for St. James. She further has event planning experience by way of her time at Dundee Bank, where she was the community involvement coordinator and worked closely with various Omaha businesses to promote and grow relationships with key stakeholders of the bank via special events.
She’s married to Tyler Becker and has two boys Ty (12) and Drew (10).
Welcome back to Mercy Sammie!
Brian Altenhofen began his new position as Director of Marketing and Communications on July 5th.
He comes to Mercy with a wealth of knowledge having earned a doctorate degree in communication and technology studies from Texas A&M University and teaching at Truman State University for the past five years. He also served as the Director of the Truman Leadership Scholars, mentoring and programming leadership experiences for Truman Scholars. Prior to his academic career he spent five years as a Jesuit Scholastic.
He is married to Michaela Cullan Altenhofen who will return to Mary Our Queen Catholic School teaching 3rd grade. They have four children Dylan (16), Lily (9), Dominic (7), and Clara (3).
Mercy Saved Her
Dara Green ’94 described herself as a scared and fragile teen when she came to Mercy, who felt misunderstood, threatened, and often challenged authority. She left knowing who she was, confident, and ready for the journey ahead of her.
“Mercy, hands down, saved my life - from my mother’s decision to send me to Mercy, to the school tolerating me for my first two years, to embracing me my last two years,” she said.
Dara had gone to public school before attending Mercy. Her transition to Catholic school was rocky not only because of assimilation issues, but because she had a non-diagnosed anxiety disorder. Luckily in her final two years at school, she was able to receive outside medical help and the administration and faculty at Mercy worked with her on her anxiety.
After graduation, she attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where she double majored in Ceramics and Art Education.
“Being an artist has been my calling for as long as I can remember. Being an educator was realized as a junior in high school because I wanted to become the type of teacher who strived to understand the misunderstood,” she added.
She taught in the Chicago public schools for seven years at the Vaughn Occupational High School, serving students with mild to severe cognitive delays. She started the art education program there.
“I believe that every student should have the highest quality of art education, despite available funding. I organized and hosted an annual silent auction of student work to fund the program,” she added.
While at Vaughn, Dara earned a National Board of Professional Teaching Certificate.
In December 2002 she moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where she taught at a couple of public schools before joining the faculty at Central Academy in 2006. The school provides additional programming for gifted and highly motivated high school students. Again, there was no art program prior to Dara’s arrival.
“Our mission at the Central Academy studio is to inspire passion in our high school students to observe, envision, engage, persist, and reflect on themselves as creators, innovators, and community members through the ceramic arts. In the studio, we use the ceramic arts to teach students the essential skills to be successful in life,” she said.
Her pottery program started with a handful of students and has grown to over 100. More students are trying to get in, so Dara is spearheading a fundraising effort that has raised more than $400,000 to build a larger studio.
As a teacher, Dara embraces differentiated learning styles. Her studio is a flipped classroom, where the instruction is recorded by the teacher and students can access lessons via YouTube.
“In a flipped classroom, instruction is switched. Students do their passive learning outside of the classroom and homework or active learning is done in concert with the teacher, allowing more time for me to work one-on-one to meet individual needs,” she explained.
She has presented at two national conferences about flipped classrooms and the way social media has supported her student’s learning experience through YouTube and celebrating student’s work on Instagram and Snapchat.
“My goal as an art educator is for the studio to be student-centered and student-run. Today and tomorrow’s students need to learn and be able to fail, persist, think outside the box, and triumph over questions we don’t even know exist yet,” she said.
Having lived her own experience of struggle and misunderstanding that was mitigated at Mercy, Dara tries to approach each student knowing they all wish to succeed, no matter how compliant they may appear.
“I strive to get to know the whole person, so I have a better understanding of how to be my best self for each one of them,” she said.
Photography by Jami Milne