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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
When St. Peter’s Catholic School opens its doors this year, a new principal will welcome students.
Kristen Cocozzella was named the new principal in May and assumed her duties on July 1.
While new to the role of principal, Cocozzella is a familiar face at St. Peter’s. She served as assistant principal for the past two years under the leadership of Mary Elizabeth Whelan, who retired after leading the school for 10 years.
Cocozzella, 29, grew up in Montgomery County, attending St. Elizabeth Catholic School in Rockville and Connelly School of the Holy Child High School in Potomac.
“I always knew I was going to be a teacher, from grade school on,” she said. “That’s just always how I pictured my path.”
She studied education at the University of Dayton and returned to her former schools to teach — first at St. Elizabeth and then at Holy Child.
“I was very fortunate to work under great principals who really pushed me to think about administration,” she said. “I just pictured myself being a teacher forever, but after some encouragement I decided to start my master’s program.”
Cocozzella earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Towson University and was hired by Whelan, whom she calls a “phenomenal leader.”
“I learned more working under her than I ever imagined,” she said. “When she announced her retirement, she encouraged me to apply for the position.”
Cocozzella said St. Peter’s is a school with a big history, tradition and culture that she intends to keep.
“Over the past two years I have grown to love this environment,” she said. “There are deep roots already and I don’t plan to take away from that. I just want to help the school grow and be the successful Catholic school that it has always been.”
She added, “My main goal is that I want what is best for our students. We have a fantastic teaching staff and I want to continue to inspire and motivate them to continue their education and growth so they can help every child succeed.”
Enrollment is steady at St. Peter’s with about 360 students.
Outside of school, Cocozzella got married in March. She and her husband, Matthew, recently purchased a home in Rockville.
Family is important to her — she grew up with two older brothers and enjoys “spoiling” her niece and nephew.
“I grew up in Gaithersburg with two wonderful parents who gave me lots of opportunities,” Cocozzella said.
She enjoys traveling and sports, especially Notre Dame football, the Washington Redskins and Clemson basketball.
She realizes she is young, but believes she brings a “new type of energy” to the school.
“I have a passion for education and want to bring out the best in kids,” she said. “I know I have big shoes to fill, but I am hoping that my passion can drive my success.”
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