Canisius High School in Buffalo named Andrea Tyrpak-Endres the first female principal in the school's 145 years of history. A longtime religion teacher at CHS, her experience includes 40 years in Catholic education.
Tyrpak-Endres had been serving as acting principal since replacing Timothy K. Fitzgerald, who went on medical leave last October before retiring in March. For students at the Jesuit boys' high school, she has been a familiar face on campus. Aside from eight years in which she taught at Mount Mercy Academy in South Buffalo, Tyrpak-Endres has spent her entire career at Canisius High School.
"I started at Canisius right out of college," Tyrpak-Endres said. "I left after I had been here for three years because there were some financial problems, and in those days, they had enough priests to replace people. I was a religion teacher, so it was easy to get priests to replace you."
During her time away from Canisius, she taught at Mount Mercy, returning in 1986. She is a product of Catholic education and a native of the Buffalo area, graduating from Villa Maria Academy in Buffalo. She received a bachelor's degree in religious studies and philosophy from Nazareth College in Rochester and a master's degree in religious studies from Canisius College in Buffalo.
"Obviously, my experiences in Catholic education were all very, very positive, because I have spent my entire life - my schooling, since first grade, is all Catholic education, grammar school as well, and all of my jobs, my major jobs," she said. "I believe in it very strongly, obviously. I think it offers a lot of positive things to the society in which we live. It's very countercultural and I think, therefore, very important."
As a religion teacher, Tyrpak-Endres feels her background will give her an important advantage as the leader of a Catholic school, in terms of keeping with its mission and philosophy. She also credited her long experience at the school as well.
During her time as a teacher, she has come to know other teachers, students and alumni, many of whom are also the fathers of the young men who are currently walking the school's halls.
"I'm a teacher at heart," she said. "I love religious studies, absolutely love it. I started out as a chemistry major, so I did a far jump. I thought science was very fascinating. I loved science, always did well in it, but when you get into the college level, things just became so much more clinical. Yet that love of science doesn't have to go away with religion. They're very compatible."
With her interest in science, Tyrpak-Endres wanted to learn about how the world works and functions, which she said is complimentary to religion. She wanted to "do something more people-oriented" for her chosen career, one she picked early in life.
"I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, from the time I was in first grade," she said. "My first-grade teacher instilled my love of education in me."
When asked how Catholic education has changed since she first began her teaching career, she said a place like Canisius has not changed much, in comparison to society as a whole. She said the biggest change is that Canisius educates a larger percentage of young men who are not Catholic or not Christian. Currently, almost one-quarter of Canisius students are not Catholic, but they still receive a message of care, concern and love for all people and all of creation, which many diverse religions also have as core beliefs.
As the school's first female principal, Tyrpak-Endres said it does not have as big of an impact in this day and age as it would have earlier in her career. When she started at Canisius, she was one of three female teachers, so her gender was more noticeable. Today, women make up about half of the faculty, but when people consider she is now the first female leader in the school's history, it is still noteworthy.
"It is still pretty remarkable that you have a 145-year history of a school dedicated to educating males, so it's pretty cool - and the fact that no other Jesuit boys' school has a woman, I understand that it is," Tyrpak-Endres said on her status at the school. "But I don't think about it much, really. I think I've been working with males so much for 40 years, I don't notice much different from that."
In addition to providing religious education, Canisius works toward developing the young men as whole people, offering retreat programs, implementing service requirements and encouraging students to live lives of service and compassion for others. They learn philosophically and intellectually in the classroom, but live this experience when they visit with and help those who are less fortunate.
In their service experience, students have gone on trips to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic and assisted domestically in Arizona, Louisiana, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. In Buffalo, they also assist Sister Johnice Rzadkiewicz, CSSF, at the Response to Love Center, a local community outreach center offering much-needed non-perishable goods, school supplies, clothing, meals and other services.
As principal, Tyrpak-Endres hopes to continue many programs Canisius already has in place, since they have been working. However, she would also like to see these programs strengthen.
"I think we're already good at what we do," she said. "Our enrollment shows that. I think we are already good, but I would really like to just see people realize how good they are, and start to build and do more. There's this Jesuit concept called the 'magis,' which means 'more' (in Latin) that's constantly calling people to do better, to give more, to be more. I'd love to see people realize that there's just so much more we can be, and so much more we can do in our world again."
As an educator, Tyrpak-Endres said it is "phenomenal" to see what so many of Canisius' alums go on to do. After she was announced as the new principal, many former students contacted her.
"It wasn't just hearing from them, but hearing all of the great, wonderful, fantastic stuff they are doing with their lives," she said. "It just makes you feel so good as an educator that they are doing way beyond the ordinary, and that's good. It's what I would hope Catholic education does produce: people who are stellar, that stand out above because they are educated so much more than intellectually."