How We Began...

St. John Paul II School History

In 1994, Sheela Shermetzler, Director of Religious Education, had been receiving numerous requests from parish members regarding the possibility of a preschool. Sheela approached Rosie Rye because she knew Rosie had a Teaching Degree in Elementary Education, at that time Rosie was also the Sunday School Coordinator. Sheela asked her about teaching Preschool and the planning began! That same year St. Matthews Catholic Church opened its doors to their first preschool students! The preschool was named St. Matthew’s Preschool and was held in the old St. Matthew's Activities Center on Douglas Highway, the current location of Rocky Mountain Discount Sports. Mrs. Rosie Rye began teaching with three classes:

Monday and Wednesday morning, 4 & 5 year olds - 15 students

Monday and Wednesday afternoon, 4 & 5 year olds - 7 students

Tuesday and Thursday morning, 3 & 4 year olds - 10 students

Mrs. Rye was the only teacher at that facility for four years. During approximately the last two years at the Douglas Highway location, the planning and construction of the new Family Life Center took place.

In the summer of 1999, the preschool moved out of the Activities Center (Douglas Highway Location) and into the new Family Life Center, located next to the church at 1000 Butler-Spaeth Road. In the first four years at the new location, parents asked for more days for four & five year olds, resulting in the decision to add Friday morning class for four & five year olds. The requests for additional classes and student capacity, as well as wait lists, continued to grow allowing for Mrs. Rye to offer more classes.

A second preschool classroom was opened which operated only on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 3 & 4 year olds, Mrs. Gwen Barstad was the teacher.

The very next year growth continued, the second classroom also began offering class for 4 & 5 year olds on Monday and Wednesday mornings.

The next year there was a large demand for more 3 & 4 year olds and a class was opened for them on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, this class was taught by Nancy Obrigewitch.

The following year, 3 & 4 year old afternoon students were moved into the second classroom and a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon class of 4 & 5 year olds was opened in Mrs. Rye's classroom.

In the spring of 2012, planning began for all-day pre-Kindergarten (pre-k) for 4 & 5 year olds. The all-day pre-k program began in the fall of 2013, in Mrs. Rye's classroom and half-day preschool classes continued in two classrooms with Mrs. Lyndee Christopherson and Mrs. Jeanie Martin.

Currently, two all day Pre-K classes offered for four & five year olds, Monday through Friday and they are taught by Mrs. Rosie Rye and Mrs. Lyndee Christopherson. Mrs. Rye and Mrs. Christopherson generally have full classes with 16 students and a full time Classroom Aide in each class. Three and four year old classes taught by Mrs. Jeanie Martin on Mondays and Wednesday mornings, or Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Mrs. Martin offers an optional extra day on Friday mornings for three and four year olds. Mrs. Martin also has half day four and five year old classes. Mrs. Martin generally has 12 students in her classes and has a full time Classroom Aide as well.


Kindergarten - 6th grade History

St. Matthew’s began the process of opening a school by first conducting a feasibility study through Catholic University in 2006. Through many surveys and meetings with parish members, Catholic University discovered there was sufficient interest and commitment from the parish and community to open a Catholic school. Once the conclusion was reached, a school planning committee was formed to decide which curriculum would be used, as well as developing a mission statement for the school. The mission statement that was created still stands today: “In unity with St. Matthew’s Catholic Community, the mission of John Paul II Catholic school at St. Matthew’s is to build a strong Catholic foundation of faith, family, community and academics in a warm and welcoming, caring and Christ-centered environment.”

The doors of the school opened in August of 2007, with a student enrollment of about 65 kids, not including the preschool program. Led by Principal Mrs. Lynn Grassel, there was:

      • one section of Kindergarten, taught by Mrs. Susan Glanzer
      • 1st and 2nd grade classes were combined into one classroom, taught by Mrs. Jenni Bridges
      • 3rd and 4th grade were combined, and taught by Mrs. Marla Salverson
      • 5th and 6th grade were combined, and taught by Mr. Richard Holland

Music and P.E. were offered, which were taught by Mrs. Anne Langevin and Mrs. Amy Gorsuch. Art and Spanish were offered through volunteers who came into the classrooms to teach.

Because we were a new school, we wanted to create an atmosphere which partnered with students and parents to form the identity of the school. A contest was launched to come up with a school mascot. Students submitted ideas along with drawings of their mascot they wished to represent our school. Many were submitted and then the students voted on their choice. The winner was our current mascot, “Messengers” represented by a dove, submitted by one of our 6th grade students.

After the first year, interest in the school increased more in both our parish and the community. Our enrollment increased enough to split all grade levels into separate sections. Additional staff was hired to fill the growing needs.

  • Kindergarten was taught by Mrs. Kristen Brown
  • Mrs. Casie Konrad was hired to teach 1st grade
  • Mrs. Jenni Bridges remained teaching 2nd grade
  • Mrs. Kim Bjorklund was hired in to teach 3rd grade
  • Mrs. Marla Salverson remained teaching 4th grade.
  • 5th-7th grades were departmentalized in order to offer a Junior High alternative for the parents of the first year 6th graders that wished to keep their children at JPII. Mr. Richard Holland remained on staff teaching Language Arts and Social Studies and Mrs. Keri Griffith was hired to teach science and math.

Our third year JPII continued to grow, adding another section of kindergarten. Mrs. Emily Anderson was hired to teach the 2nd class of kindergarteners. A second section of 2nd grade was also needed, Mrs. Amy Faurot was hired. 5th grade was removed from the departmentalization and Mrs. Keri Griffith was the fifth grade teacher. Mr. Cliff Davis and Mrs. Bonnie Kuhbacher were hired to teach Junior High after Mr. Holland retired.

In the fourth year of JPII, Mrs. Amy Faurot was moved up to teach 6th grade. Mr. Don Scott was hired to replace Mrs. Lynn Grassel as principal after her retirement. Additionally, it was determined that the Jr. High program needed to be retired as we could not financially continue to support it. We would continue to focus our efforts at the preschool through 6th grade levels.

The following year in 2011, Mrs. Melanie Sylte was hired as principal and the school has continued to grow each year by 10-15 students. At that time the school maintains P.E., Music, Art, Spanish, and Library with a new addition of STEM.

In 2018 Mrs. Vanessa Gemar was hired as Principal at John Paul II after teaching third grade at JPII for a year. John Paul II is very blessed to have Mrs. Gemar lead the staff and students. She is a Gillette native and a St. Matthew's lifelong parishioner. She taught in Campbell County School District for many years; 2nd grade for 13 years and 4th grade for 2 years. She then was the Language Arts Facilitator for the Campbell County School District for 2 years. During that time she was blessed to grow her leadership skills, as well as develop language arts curriculum for more than 275+ educators. JPII is very blessed to have her because of her experience as a classroom teacher, a district curriculum coordinator and her ability to research and implement best practices. JPII is very excited for the future with Mrs. Gemar as principal and leader!

Currently in the 2018-2019 school year, John Paul II has;

  • 2 full day Pre-K classes taught by Mrs. Rye and Mrs. Christopherson
  • 3 half day preschool classes taught by Mrs. Martin
  • 2 kindergarten classes taught by Mrs. Konrad and Mrs. Clark
  • 1 first grade class taught by Mrs. Faurot,
  • 1 first/second combo class taught by Miss Wagner
  • 1 second grade class taught by Miss Holland
  • 2 third grade classes taught by Mrs. Lasham and Mrs. Doherty
  • 2 fourth grade classes taught by Mrs. Bridges and Mrs. Walker
  • 2 fifth grade classes taught by Mrs. Schroeder and Mrs. Bailey and
  • Middle School, 6th -8th grade, taught by Mr. Casey and Mrs. Hummel